By Josh Lezmi
December 20, 2020
Though Bette Midler is known for tearjerking original ballads like “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From a Distance,” the Divine Miss M also knows her way around a cover. From her rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Miss Otis Regrets” to her heartwrenching take on “Delta Dawn,” she tends to add a bit of fun or bring a degree of humanity and poignancy to her covers. One of her best-known covers is her version of “Beast of Burden,” originally performed by The Rolling Stones.
Midler and Mick Jagger made a little music video together — that starts with Midler telling Jagger (who is her lover in the clip) that he needs to stay and watch her perform his song. She says she does it “better than anybody —” a claim he kindly rejects. Midler has since spoken about her relationship with Mick Jagger, explaining that, though he is quite an unparalleled artist, he refuses to grant one wish when it comes to fellow musicians.
“He is really sharp. You listen to some of those songs, I can’t believe he wrote them. He is so good.”
Though praising the “Sympathy for the Devil” singer, she notes that he isn’t one to “give” his music away. Midler shared:
“Of course, he won’t give you nothing. To ask him to write a song for you, forget it. You can crawl. You can go on your hands and knees. You can bribe him. He will not give you one note. That’s why you wind up, when you wind up singing a Stones song, it’s always a cover…”
And though Midler’s Stone’s song was “only a cover,” it has become one of the most celebrated covers in rock and roll history, with many musical critics even claiming she one-upped the one and only Mick Jagger.
Midler goes on to explain that, though Jagger is resilient to write songs for other artists, he may do so for Black acts. She explained that he loves black artists. Midler believes Jagger thinks he owes a debt to Black musicians. She said:
“I think he feels he has a debt to them. And, indeed he does. I think every white singer who sings any kind of soul music at all owes a huge debt to Black music.”
Midler goes onto explain that Jagger pays a great deal of attention to Black acts, but he “won’t give a white girl with big boobs nothing.” Midler says she’s asked him to write for her, but he’s never agreed.