This story is not true.
In 1971, Atlantic Records released John Prine's eponymous debut album. The third track (on the first side) was a song called “Hello in There”.
In 1972, Atlantic Records released Bette Midler's debut album, The Divine Miss M. The seventh track (the second track on the second side) was a song called “Hello in There”, written by John Prine.
In 1973, Asylum Records released Tom Waits's debut album, Closing Time. The sixth track on that album was a song called “Martha”.
Later that year, Bette Midler's concert tour took her to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, where she performed from December 3 until December 22. On one of those nights, she sang “Hello in There” while a young John Prine sat in the cheap seats, thinking to himself, “Someday I'll be up on that stage.”
In 1977, both Tom Waits and Bette Midler, who were dating, released albums with a duet by Waits called “I Never Talk to Strangers”.
In 1979, Bette Midler, who was no longer dating Waits, performed on Saturday Night Live a version of “Martha”.
On Friday, April 13, 2018, Sturgill Simpson took the stage at Radio City Music Hall, acoustic and solo. After he finished, John Prine appeared, and for the first time of his life on stage at Radio City, he performed “Hello in There”, nearly 45 years after declaring he would.
For his final encore, he played “When I Get to Heaven” while his niece and nephew played kazoo and Brandi Carlisle yodeled.
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