Before her hit records and Radio City Music Hall performances, Bette Midler entertained at the Continental Baths, a New York City bathhouse frequented by gay men. In her repertoire was the song “Friends,” written by Mark “Moogy” Klingman and Buzzy Linhart.
“You’ve got to have friends.” That’s true now and it was true when she sang it in 1972. The song’s lyrics resonated with her audience. It was the early days of the gay liberation movement, and our friends often played the roles that would for straight folks be filled by family.
The lyrics seemed prescient the following decade. The poignancy of Midler singing the lines “I had some friends but they’re gone / Somethin’ came and took them away” at the onset of the AIDS epidemic was deeply felt by those remaining from her early core audience.
On December 1, World AIDS Day, we remember those friends we lost.
December 1 is also Bette Midler’s birthday. Here are twenty of my favorite selections from her vast repertoire.
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