You’ve come a long way, baby – a slogan created for a cigarette brand during the 1960s that was embraced by women – can be applied to the LGBTQ+ world.
A generation ago, Michael Stipe was reluctant to come out of the closet, but R.E.M.’s vocalist, Melissa Etheridge and K.D. Lang and a number of influential recording artists revealed their sexual orientation during the early 1990s. Much has changed, and many singers are flying their rainbow-colored Gay Pride flags in song.
Contemporary recording artists such as Sam Smith, Adam Lambert and Olly Alexander are straight up about being gay. It’s one thing to say but another to write about it, and that’s where Lil Nas X lets it all hang out.
“Sun Goes Down,” the recently crafted moving ballad by the flamboyant pop star, was showcased on “SNL”: “Since ten I been feeling lonely / Had friends, but they was picking on me. … These gay thoughts would always haunt me / I prayed God would take it from me / It’s hard for you when you’re fighting / And nobody knows it when you’re silent.”
Moving poetry from a small-town kid from Georgia, who lays it all out for children grappling with their sexual identity. It’s also effective to communicate to your fans via interview. Lil Nas X, of course, is the artist behind the mega-hit “Old Town Road,” one version a collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus.
“From an early age, I wanted to do something to help others,” singer-songwriter Beth Ditto told Inside Nova. “But I didn’t know what it was. After I left Arkansas, things looked clearer. Bible Belt below the Mason-Dixon line, a place that always reminds me that God sees you and judges you.
“That I can get to other queer kids in the small town I had a duty to show. This was the message I wanted to convey. I don’t think I’d escape the situation where I felt wrong, ugly or (I was) going to hell … the world is bigger than you think. You are queer. You are yourself. You can be happy.”
Ditto eloquently states her stance. So many recording artists have joined her over the years, from pop sensation Ricky Martin to headbanger Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Erasure vocalist Andy Bell, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and rapper Big Dipper are among other seminal recording artists who have come out.
During the roaring ‘20s, Bessie Smith sang of same-sex relationships. If Little Richard, who was always ahead of his time, wasn’t censored by his producers, the prodigy’s smash “Tutti Fruiti” would have been a searing, revealing gay anthem during the 1950s. David Bowie created some post-Stonewall noise with “John, I’m Only Dancing,” an openly gay tune. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s hit “Relax” was obviously same sex.
However, progress was stunted during the 1980s by the Beastie Boys’ juvenile early material and homophobic rockers such as Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row. The Beastie Boys short-lived fourth member, drummer Kate Schellenbach, who is a lesbian, quit the band after the group was going to dub its first album “Don’t Be a (derogatory term for a homosexual).”
However, the Beastie Boys made amends to all they offended in song after maturing during the 1990s. The following is the late Beastie Boy MCA’s rap during “Sure Shot”: To say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers also apologized in their memoir and during interviews. The Beasties changed, and society is morphing. Recording artists no longer have to hide their sexual orientation like George Michael did during his incomparable career. Over the last year, Chicago rapper Da Brat, Spanish singer-songwriter Pablo Alboran and singer and YouTube sensation Ricky Dillon came out.
It helps that mainstream recording artists such as Macklemore, Jennifer Hudson and Miley Cyrus, among many others, have been recording pro-LGBTQ+ songs and voicing their support. The rainbow is growing wider thanks to a supportive music world.
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