Interesting Tid-Bette: From Michael Gray’s “Bob Dylan Encyclopedia”

Midler, Bette [1945 – ]

Bette Midler was born on December 1, 1945, in New Jersey, but grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she majored in drama at university. Moving to New York City in the second half of the 1960s she soon made Broadway (in Fiddler on the Roof), but really made her name as a hyper-cabaret artiste in a gay bathhouse. She slid over to the mainstream via records (her first album went platinum, and in 1989 she had a no.1 hit single, ”˜Wind Beneath My Wings’), theatre and eventually film (among many others, she starred in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People and Outrageous Fortune in the second half of the 1980s, worked with Woody Allen in the early 1990s and appeared in the remake of The Stepford Wives in 2004).

When Dylan was first asked to duet with Midler, he wanted them to record a version of ”˜Friends’, a song she’d put two versions of on her début album, The Divine Miss M in 1973. After rehearsing it, they swapped to ”˜Buckets Of Rain’ instead, giving it a pleasing, relaxed but rollocking pace and an appealing melody line – it would be country if Midler’s arranger and producer had been less mainstream showbiz – and with an altered lyric far more flirtatiously throwaway than the original, not least in singing of ”˜nuggets’ instead of ”˜buckets’, and ending with this spoken exchange:

Bob: ”˜Hum, meany.’

Bette: ”˜Oooh, you don’t even know. You have no idea.’

Bob: ”˜I don’t want to know . . . . .You and Paul Simon should have done this one.’

This was not the last flirtation between the two, though it seems to have been very one-sided. Ms Midler was quoted in British tabloid newspaper The Sun in 1982 as saying that she had tried and failed to seduce Bob: ”˜I got close . . . a couple of first bases in the front of his Cadillac.’ At the end of the 1985 recording of ”˜We Are The World’, the charity fund-raising single in response to famine in Ethiopia, Dylan avoids the embrace of many an over-excited fellow star, but cannot ”˜evade a block tackle by linebacker Bette Midler”¦ This time her determination proves irresistible.’ She hugs him and tells him ”˜Goodnight, dearest.’

An earlier take of their duet on ”˜Buckets Of Rain’, with more conversation, has circulated among collectors.

[Better Midler & Bob Dylan: ”˜Buckets Of Rain’, NYC, Oct 1975, Songs For The New Depression, Atlantic SD 18155, US (Atlantic K50212, UK), 1976; CD-reissued Atlantic 82784-2, US, 1997.]

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