BootLeg Betty

BetteBack January 8, 1989: Beaches Reminds Us That Bette Midler Is A Powerful Pop Singer

Pacific Stars And Stripes
January 8, 1989

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• In the strongest musical moments of the new Bette Midler movie, “Beaches,” one is reminded of just how powerful a pop singer Midler can be when handed the right song and an arrangement that doesn’t constrict her brash, larger-than-life personality.

The movie follows the rise, career slide and resurgence of an entertainer whose story very roughly parallels Midler’s.

As in “A Star Is Born,” some of the songs are production numbers for her character, C.C. Bloom, a raucous redheaded
singer from the Bronx who rises to pop stardom via Broadway.

But the most effective numbers are dramatic ballads — “The Glory of Love,” “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” — that underscore the turning points in a tempestuous 25-year friendship.

“When we started gathering material last January, the movie was supposed to open with the kind of big, funny boogie-woogie number associated with Bette when she first became a star, but she decided it would be a mistake to suggest that the story was overtly autobiographical,” says Marc Shaiman, the film’s musical supervisor and Midler’s longtime musical director. “Then she decided she wanted to open with ‘I Think It’s Going to Rain Today,’ but we ended up choosing ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ since that’s where the two characters meet.”

The musical decisions were made by a committee of more than half a dozen, including Midler and the other producers; Shaiman; Garry Marshall, the film’s director, and Arif Mardin, the record producer.

The Cole Porter show tune, “I’ve Still Got My Health,” which C.C. Bloom sings in a nightclub in the early 70s, was discovered on an obscure Ann Sothern recording.

The Broadway musical “Sugar Babies” served as the stylistic model for the bawdy production number that makes C.C. a Broadway star.

Midler’s open-hearted vocals and the relaxed flexibility of the arrangements help to make the Atlantic Records soundtrack album for “Beaches” the singer’s most engaging pop album in years.

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