The Divine Miss M: Bette Midler's Biggest Hits

Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Bette Midler 1970

It was December 1, 1945, when Bette Midler was born in one of the very Jewish families in a heavily Asian area of Honolulu, Hawaii. Named after film star Bette Davis, she was appropriately voted "Most Dramatic" in her senior year of high school (class of 1963) before heading off to major in just that--Drama--at the University of Hawaii. It was a short-lived stint, after a bit part in the 1966 movie Hawaii made her enough money to make the big move to New York City. Midler hit the city hard, racking up onstage productions around town until she landed on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof for three straight years at the end of the '60s.

It was in the early 1970s when Midler began to cement her legend with a gig at the Continental Baths, a notorious gay bath house where her piano accompanist was none less that future fellow legend, Barry Manilow. He would go on to produce Midler's first solo album, The Divine Miss M, released in December 1972. The rest truly is history.

Midler's career has been a a road map for taking the biggest chances to reap the greatest rewards. When her career stalled in the mid-'70s, she simply took her act to TV, winning an Emmy award for her 1977 special, Ol' Red Hair is Back. In 1979, Midler made the massive leap to the big-screen, starring in The Rose, a rollicking rock and roll bio-pic that scored the star an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (the award went to Sally Field for Norma Rae). The role also landed her on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Ironically, it's "only" an Oscar that's keeping Bette Midler from being an esteemed and rare EGOT winner.

Musically, Midler hit her commercial peak by more than a country mile with the release of "Wind Beneath My Wings," which still stands as her only US #1 on the Hot 100. It was the top song in the country for the single week of June 10, 1989. Here's a rundown of Bette Midler's five biggest hits in America.

1. "Wind Beneath My Wings"
Her #1 hit from the 1988 tear-jerking cinema blockbuster, "Beaches."

2. "From a Distance"
The lead single from her 1990 Some People's Lives album got all the way to #2 for the week of December 15, 1990. The #1 song in the country that week: "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)."

3. "The Rose"
The theme song to the 1979 movie was a big enough hit to reach #3 on the Hot 100 for the week of June 28, 1980. The tunes that blocked Bette from the top slot: Paul McCartney and Wings' "Coming Up" at #1, and Lipps, Inc.'s "Funkytown" at #2.

4. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"
The second single from The Divine Miss M was Midler's revamp of this 1940s classic. The track hit #8 on the singles chart for the week of July 21, 1973. Jim Croce had the #1 song that week with "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

5. "Do You Want to Dance?"
Midler's take on the '50s favorite was the lead single on her Barry Manilow-produced debut, The Divine Miss M. It was a top 20 hit, peaking at #17 over the week of March 10, 1973. The #1 song on the Hot 100: Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song."