Classic Artists Get An Infusion From The Young

Washington Post
Bette Midler covers TLC’s ”˜Waterfalls’ while Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga hit PBS
By Soraya Nadia McDonald October 24

This is going to sound odd, but try to imagine what the R&B hit “Waterfalls” would sound like if it was on the soundtrack of “Beaches.”

Great: Now you’ve basically got the gist of Bette Midler’s cover of the 1995 TLC hit. It works, it really works. Midler remixes a spare, haunting quality that feels right in line with the lyrics.

It’s no secret that infusion of the young and hip can help classic artists such as Midler, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand reach new audiences, and they’ve all capitalized on youth in one way or another. Midler smartly released her cover of “Waterfalls” to gin up buzz for “It’s The Girls,” her album of girl-group covers that comes out Nov. 4. The first single was the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” – also excellent, and instantly familiar to anyone who can quote “Dirty Dancing” from memory (“I carried a watermelon“).

So far, this trend has made for some great combinations, such as Bennett and Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand and Michael Bubl̩, Barbra Streisand and Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand and John Legend Рpretty much Babs and all the pop stars your mother can readily identify as nice, clean-cut, handsome boys. This is a woman who understands her core audience.

As for Bennett, the man practically lives in duet country these days – “Duets,” “Duets II,” “Viva Duets,” “Cheek to Cheek” – we get it, Tony, you really like singing with others. And no wonder: With “Cheek to Cheek,” Bennett became the oldest act to ever reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Bennett and Gaga are taking the show to PBS tonight with a live concert from “The Great American Songbook” airing on “Great Performances” at 9 p.m. EST. It’s become practically cliché to note what an odd couple they make, so we’ll just remind you they’re actually both divine live performers and they’ve got great chemistry.

Bennett’s general even keel does make you wonder if he’s simply become inured to Gaga’s parade of crazy cat lady wigs – not to mention her attendant makeup and wardrobe – or if he’s just very good at pretending she looks completely normal.

Or maybe he’s just unfazed, because at 88, the man has seen it all. Or maybe he just sees an artist whose rendition of “Bang Bang” will give you chills:

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