Successful gay and lesbian musicians

4 Sep

The world has been blessed with many fine musicians throughout the course of history. Some of them we know quite a bit about and others far less. Some have been pivotal in breaking down stereotypes as to what people are believed to be able to do, how they act, and how we view others like them. With that in mind there have been many wonderful gay and lesbian musicians which have kept this tradition alive by breaking down our preconceived notions and stereotypes about the abilities of LGBT persons while entertaining us. Some we are very aware of, others slide under the radar, not hiding their identity, but also not pushing it. Either way the let their talent speak for itself.

One of the most notable gay musicians of the past forty plus years is Sir Reginald Dwight, better known as Elton John. Born on March 25, 1947, he has gone on to become one of the most enduring musicians of his generation winning multiple Grammy Awards as a singer and songwriter while selling over 200 million records worldwide to go along with 59 Top 40 hits, seven consecutive number one albums in the U.S., and nine number one singles. In addition to that he has been graced with an Academy Award, A 1994 Rock n’ Roll hall of Fame induction, and he was ranked #3 in a Billboard magazine list of the Top 100 Musicians of All-Time. In 1998 he was Knighted By Queen Elizabeth II. He has further distinguished himself by forming the Elton John AIDS Foundation which has raised tens of millions of dollars for AIDS research and care. Elton has been with his partner David Furnish for 15 years, and although he has no children he does dote on tens Godchildren. Flamboyant, over the top, but always entertaining, Elton John over the 32 years he has been publicly out of the closet has gone a long way to opening the door for gay musicians everywhere.

Photo by Bernd Brägelmann

Queen front man Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara on the island of Zanzibar in 1946 has long been not just a gay icon, but an entertainment icon. In 1969 Freddie left Ealing College with a diploma in graphic art and design but worked in the field very briefly as that same summer he made his musical debut with a band called Ibex in Bolton, Lancshire and never looked back. He bounced around to a couple of bands before joining Sour Milk Sea which later became known as Queen. There was never any argument that Freddie was a gifted singer and songwriter, but what set him apart from the pack was a natural charisma and energy on the stage that was unlike anyone else. Queen and Mercury’s solo record sales totals are staggering, enough so to be the best selling band of the 1980’s and to make Queen’s Greatest Hits album Britain’s best selling album of all time.

After a struggle with various ailments brought on By the AIDS virus Freddie passed on the 24th of November in 1991. Despite many people urging Freddie to go public with his positive HIV status much earlier he chose to keep it quiet until the last couple months of his life despite rampant press speculation predating that. he was known to be upbeat until the end and his name has been used in conjunction with various AIDS fund raising and research associations since his death raising tens of millions of dollars worldwide. Freddie never hid who he was or what he believed. His talent transcended the stereotypes many people held about the abilities of gay men to be true rock icons.

Robert John Arthur Halford, better known as Rob Halford the front man for British metal band Judas Priest and one of music’s most recognizable voices. Born on August 25, 1951 in Birmingham England, Halford seemed destined for a life in music. It seemed little else held his interest the way music did and the sounds coming to life in the 60’s were the perfect springboard for this young man to express himself. Despite early struggles with Priest, each successive album was of better quality and rang up commensurately better sales. Hellbent for Leather is a classic album to this day which served to inspire some of the greatest metal bands of the next thirty years. Halford was speculated to be gay as early as the late 1980’s, but few in the world of heavy metal music took it seriously.

It is believed this was a major part of the true reason he left Judas Priest in 1992 after twenty years with the band. They tried replacing him only to find nobody could. Halford spent several years working on solo projects waiting for the right time to make a change. In 1997 that change came when Halford publicly confirmed longstanding rumors that he was in fact gay. He made light of by joking how it should have been so obvious given his penchant for sequined gowns and leather. Finally it seemed like the world of metal was ready to accept gay men could in fact be a part of the metal scene and Priest re-united. For this reason Rob Halford is important in music history as he was the first openly gay world known heavy metal artist.

Few women in music match the talent of Melissa Ethridge who has won almost every musical award under the sun she has ever qualified for. Ethridge has been pivotal in bringing a new image to lesbians in the music industry. She is all woman yet she maintains a tough edge which makes he poignant writing and soulful powerful voice known worldwide. At a time when it was still considered a possible career killer, Ethridge proudly stood up as a lesbian woman, introduced the world to her partner, and shared with all the plans to make their dream for a child of their own real. Ms. Ethridge has used her celebrity to advance more than gay rights awareness, but breast cancer research, green technology, and a literally dozens of worthwhile charitable causes.

Photo by Erinc Salor

Angela Maria “Ani” DiFranco, born September 23, 1970, served as the voice for a generation of queer youth. Ani identifies technically as bisexual and has married her sound engineer Andrew Gilcchrist. Many found this confusing as she had always been known primarily as a lesbian, or more apt;y put perhaps, wished to be a lesbian by her many female fans. Difranco did little to ever say what her orientation was other than to say she liked people and leave it at that. Regardless of this, she served as a great inspiration to many by openly discussing her love for other women and encouraging people to be true to them self. This was possible because she began performing and recording her now twenty plus albums as a young teen which talked directly to her contemporaries dealing with the same emotions.

To highlight only a few without mentioning everyone seems so unfair considering so many have played a role in redefining the way much of society views gay and lesbian women as a whole beyond the countless million they have entertained. Some spent their careers out of the closet, some never came out until the saw their careers end, either way it matters little in the grand scheme of things. Among some of the more notable people that deserve mention are: K.D. Lang, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Billie Joe Armstrong {Bisexual} of Green Day, Joan Baez, Long John Baldry of “You’ve lost that loving Feeling” fame, Meg Christian, Darby Crash of the Germs, Boy George, Sophie B. Hawkins, Darren Hayes of Savage Garden, and the list could go on and on.

What is important to take from this all is that gay and lesbian singers have been around as long as there has been music. It doesn’t matte what their sexual preference is in regards to their ability to entertain. They cross all musical genres and are among some of the most beloved and successful musicians of all time. Without them, the world would be a much duller place to live.

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