Happy Birthday Bette Midler! What’s Her Greatest Musical Moment?

Bette Midler turns 68 on Sunday, and like Tina Turner a few days ago, it’s hard to remember a time when she wasn’t part of our lives, either on the radio or on the big screen. Last year Louis asked for The Greatest Bette Moment, with an emphasis on her film career (and I have to agree with the worship of Big Business, although Outrageous Fortune comes very close “Does the phrase needledick, the bugf*cker mean anything to you?”), but this year let’s focus on her music.

Bette has had a wildly varied musical career, from stage rock to big band to pure pop to standards, and much more. But if you had to pick a favorite from her vast songbook, what would it be? Her first top ten hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy?” Her biggest hits “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From A Distance?” The classic “The Rose?”

It was difficult to narrow it down for me, but I chose: Glory Of Love, the effectively manipulative closer from Beaches, My Knight In Black Leather and Married Men, from her disco epic Thighs and Whispers, The Rose, one of the most perfect pop ballads ever recorded, but my #1 choice comes from my favorite Bette album, 1983’s critically drubbed and commercial flop No Frills.

No Frills was Bette’s first studio album in four years, and mixed pop/rock with a definite early 80’s feel, but the album and the singles stiffed on the chart. “Beast of Burden” and “My Favorite Waste Of Time” were both fun remakes, but it’s “All I Need To Know” that is my favorite from the album (and I think her career). If the song sounds familiar, it should. Six years after Bette’s version, Linda Ronstandt and Aaron Neville released their glossier version, retitled “Don’t Know Much,” giving us a certified 80’s classic.

As wonderful as Linda and Aaron are, Bette’s interpretation is more raw, and I think that’s why it’s my favorite Bette song. Her brashness and brassiness are stripped bare, and all that’s left is a vulnerability that very real and potent.

Okay, your turn! What’s your favorite Bette song?

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.