Love Is Love (Part 1)
Love is love. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising this June, Pride month is more important than ever. The fight that began in Greenwich Village five decades ago continues today with every step forward being a hard-fought battle to overcome fear and ignorance. No matter your orientation, the impact of the Queer community on music is hard to exaggerate. Here are four of the iconic artists who bravely challenged the status quo and paved the way for today’s exciting LGBTQ artists.
Ma Rainey – Prove It On Me Blues
The Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey, recorded this rebellious anthem way back in 1928, six years before Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads and inspired almost every blues-rock band of the 1960s. Rainey sings about her female lover and brags about dressing as a man in this song of self-affirmation. Her undeniable swagger and confidence make it hard to imagine what might have happened to any man foolish enough to give her a dirty look.
Jobriath – Morning Star Ship
Last week, the much-maligned Morrissey released a covers album of “protest” songs by icons such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. However, it is his cover of this glam rock gem that fits Moz best. Jobriath, aka Bruce Wayne Campbell, was the first openly gay artist signed to a major label and the hype surrounding his first album was deafening. Peter Frampton and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones played on his recordings and he seemed destined to be the American compliment to David Bowie. His star ship never launched like Bowie but he remained an icon until his death from AIDS in 1983.
Judas Priest – Another Thing Coming
Of all the artists on this list, nobody was working in a more heteronormative music scene than Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. When he came out in 1998, it sent shockwaves through the metal community but Judas Priest remains as revered today as they were before Halford came out. Not only did Halford undermine the preconceived notion that gay men could not embody strong masculinity, he did it in some of the most badass leather outfits to ever rock a stage.
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
At its inception, MTV needed product and most of the artists making videos were part of the New Romantic scene in England. These disciples of Bowie were visually stunning and a perfect fit for television. As a result, many LGBTQ artists infiltrated mainstream pop culture via our televisions. While everyone remembers Boy George and George Michael, one of the bravest groups working at the time was Bronski Beat. “Smalltown Boy” was a staple of MTV and became a massive hit around the world. The title of their album, Age Of Consent, was a direct commentary on the UK’s refusal to lower the age of consent for the gay community from 21 even as other European nations changed it to 16 and the artwork cleverly incorporated a pink triangle, a symbol of self-identity in the LGBTQ community. The Sex Pistols might be remembered as the political punks that scared a nation but Bronski Beat was risking even more with their brave music.