“I came from nothing. I came from the most isolated place in the United States: Hawaii. And I spent most of my time reading books in libraries. And I had a mediocre education. But somehow or another I was mesmerized by the idea that someone would get up in a pool of light and be completely and utterly transformed. And transfigured. And beautiful. And that, when the light hit them, they had something not just to say—but something to reveal.
And I remember when I was a kid I saw Édith Piaf on television, and I saw her… I think it was the first time I’d ever seen a human being do what she did. Which was to completely unzip her skin and show her soul. And I… I never really recovered from it. I really felt that I understood what that was. And that I could do it.”
—Bette Midler, 44th KCHonors recipient
I don’t have much to add to this except that I was glad I found this quote from her acceptance speech on Facebook, because it was not televised on the Kennedy Center Honors on CBS. Which I think is a travesty.
Bette Midler is someone I would add to the list of my musical mothers. Her performances really define for me what is “curiously strong performing,” which I define elsewhere in this site as “Singing and/or performing that takes risks.”
(Oddly enough, I had a dream about two of my other musical mothers last night and it inspired me to create something, which I’ll talk about later.)
Specifically, I always think of her versions of “Superstar” and “Do you want to dance” as two examples of making a song your own. Karen Carpenter sang “Superstar” as a love-struck fan. It was very nice. But you thought, “Ah, she’ll get over it.” Bette Midler sang “Superstar” as a crazed groupie who saw too much into a one-night stand – and you thought, “That girl’s damaged for life.”
See for yourself and tell me what you think:
She shines a light. And she reveals. She shows her soul.
It’s not enough to have something to say. What sets you apart is that ability to “unzip [your] skin and show [your] soul.”