Let’s talk about your earliest influences.
“Nina Simone was also a gigantic influence on me. When I was a little girl, she had a record out called “Children, Go Where I Send You,” which was one of the greatest records I had ever heard in my life. I used to stand in front of the radio and belt that at the top of my lungs. I loved her. And I met her! She came to a show of mine, and we sat together, and we both shed lots of tears. And Ethel Waters, I adored her. A friend of mine introduced me to Ethel Waters. He played a record for me, “Suppertime,” and she breaks down and cries in the middle of it, and it is so moving and heart-wrenching. It kind of opened a door in my mind that you didn’t have to have the biggest voice in the world. You didn’t have to have the most beautiful voice in the world. What really mattered was that it pierce your heart. She taught me that. And Nina Simone indicated that music didn’t have to be three-chord music, it could be enormously complex essays. Musical essays. They could be full of bitterness and heartache and hope and all of the range of human emotions. It didn’t just have to be, “Baby, baby, baby/Love me, love me, love me.” And that was a big lesson. A big, big lesson.”
(Source: Jennifer Vineyard – http://www.vulture.com/2014/04/bette-midler-on-her-early-years-in-new-york-city.html)