Showing posts with label Gay Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Music. Show all posts

July 1, 2018

Black Gay Disco Music Still with Us and So Is SYLVESTER "I can Hear him as I type now"







Black queer artists like Ma Rainey, James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Lorraine Hansberry, and Essex Hemphill have all made it a bit easier for me to dream. I was born in a perfect era as a feminine black gay man interested in being apart of pop culture and music to have a fighting chance of making a living off of that desire. The dreams I’m dreaming are large, but tangible. They are made possible because of the legacies black gay artists before me have left. However, there is no black gay artist that opened up my imagination about who I can be while affirming who I am like disco icon—often referred to as The Queen of Disco—Sylvester.
Sylvester performed as a drag artist early in his career and covered blues classics by Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. He was known on underground drag circuits as the queen with the beautiful, soulful voice able to mimic the jazz and blues legends of the past. In the late 1970s he became a sensation with “Do You Want to Funk” and “Dance (Disco Heat),” which turned the world into a discotech and every discotech into a pulpit. His background singers Izora Armstead and Martha Wash would later get their own fame as disco sensation, The Weather Girls (1982’s “It’s Raining Men”) in their own right. But for a moment in time, they spread their glitter-riddled gospel all over the world.
I saw Sylvester for the first time in his music video for “Mighty Real (You Make Me Feel)” and I was astonished: a brown black man adorned in flamboyant, Studio 54-ready garb making love to the camera. Sylvester looked like a fantasy, but he insisted he was real—mighty real. He was not a clever sidekick or an odd spectacle for the straight gaze. He was the focal point of the video. He was the star. In that moment, a dream was born inside of me that allowed me to imagine myself as a star too. 
Sylvester had one of those powerhouse voices that is becoming more and more rare to hear in mainstream music today. It was the voice birthed in black church, and raised by R&B and rock ‘n roll. It’s a voice like Patti Labelle, Rick James, Luther Vandross, or Chaka Khan. It’s reckless, but in control. There’s a gospel and sensual quality to how these vocalists attack a song. They sang high notes, wore sequins, and changed lives.
I was at the awkward age of 13 in middle school and I was being bullied for liking weird things and having feminine mannerisms. I was sure that if I cried in front of all of my peers, my eyes would cry pink and glitter and everyone would finally know with certainty my big queer secret. I just had to make it home. When I finally did and closed the door to my room, I played my mother’s Sylvester vinyl that had “Body Strong” on it. I listened to the song as I cried. As I sobbed, I looked at Sylvester’s album covers: this glamorous, androgynous black man with dark skin beaming with joy on some covers and on others he possessed an eloquent stoicism. In my dark room, I began to dance and weep, which I now find to be the queerest practice ever. Black queer life is often this constant exercise of finding jubilation and camp in the face of tragedy and melancholy. Our protests are often mistaken for parades. 
In a culture that often deems the feminine black gay man as the humorous sidekick to the main character or the assistant (a hairdresser, make-up artist, or wardrobe stylist) to the superstar or diva, Sylvester offered the idea that that the black femme queer folks don’t just create the cool culture or assist in cultural phenomenons—we can be at the epicenter of it all. As Sylvester once sang on the lush groove “Stars,” “You are a star. Everybody is one.” 
In 2018, we’ve arrived at the beginning black queer cultural reckoning of sorts. With artists like Mykki Blanco, serpentwithfeet, Nakhane Touré, Abdu Ali, and Fusilier creating their own universes in music and pushing the aesthetic expectation of black forward, it’s imperative we remember artists like Sylvester who broke ceilings so we can declare the sky as the limit. An artist that was one of the first to boldly declare their gender and sexual identity, as well as claim the spotlight and microphone. 
Remembering Sylvester should also include remembering how he left us and what was done to his legacy. Sylvester died in debt in the winter of 1988 due to complications from AIDS. Many of our cherished black artists die penniless and often leave the public memory, but just like Sylvester suggested and deemed us all stars. Artists and lovers of art that have benefited from his legacy, can and must remember to honor him and remind the world he is a star. That he has influenced a new generation of artists to be themselves, push cultural boundaries, and knowing that artistic excellent is often an odd thing. Which means it is okay to stick out and make people uncomfortable.  
I often dream about what Sylvester might think about the world we live in today. How would he feel about Pose on television? How would he feel about the rising of so many black queer artists working of the camera (or microphone) and behind the scenes? How he’d feel that he birthed a generation black gay men like me that dream dreams that are big and ambitious. My hope is he would feel mighty real.

Noisey.vice
Myles E. Johnson is a writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him onTwitter.

January 13, 2018

Troye Sivan A Gay PoP Icon...My My My!














September 8, 2017

Has Freddy Mercury Come Back?

Freddie Mercury
Photo Courtesy NICK DELANEY/FOX  With a white tank, thick mustache, skin-tight jeans and studded armband, the Mr. Robot star is a spitting image of the late Mercury, aptly captured on stage with a microphone in-hand. 
"When you’re able to open your eyes and see a different person staring back at you in the mirror," Malek told Entertainment Weekly, reflecting on his first time as Mercury in hair and makeup, "it’s a very affirming moment."
The preview arrives on what would've been Mercury's 71st birthday today, and teases a biopic that Malek describes as non-traditional. "It won't just be the dark Freddie story, but that being said, that will also be honored," he said. "It's about collaboration. It's a celebration."
Bohemian Rhapsody is scheduled for release December 25, 2018. 

June 20, 2017

"Have Fun Tonight " Sir (New Gay Anthem? Maybe for tonight)








Electroclash icons Fischerspooner have announced their first new album in eight years, the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Entertainment. Entitled SIR, it was co-written and co-produced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Beyoncé producer Boots. It’s due for release on September 22nd through Ultra Records.
 Fischer Spooner

 The album’s lead single, “Have Fun Tonight”, is a pulsing club number, as reflected in the accompanying visual that features the swirling, trailing bodies of men dancing around each other. One mustachioed gentleman watches it all, making some NSFW gestures. A description on the YouTube post describes the track as “a queer dance ballad about polyamory (…or polyagony) encouraging your lover to go out and have fun without you.” Check it out above.
Casey Spooner Photographed by Matt Brown


December 6, 2016

Love is a Drag: Mysterious Gay Albums from the 60’s Revealed








I feel so grateful to Jim Farber and The Guardian  for providing answers to me and my readers about music that popped up before Gay Pride and Gays were proudly coming out. These were before my times but in 1980 someone played this music for me without telling me what it was and I feeling so proud that we had gay music. I always wondered who the writers and singers were. Today I found this well written article at the Guardian posting all the details about our own first commercially recorded music.
Adam
                                                                       _*_

More than 50 years ago, an album appeared that let the love that dare not speak its name sing out loud. The man who voiced the male-to-male love songs contained on the album wasn’t identified on the cover. Neither were the musicians who played on it, the man who produced the music, nor the two male figures who lurked in the dark shadows that enveloped the cover. The disc, titled Love Is a Drag in 1962, featured a sincere crooner interpreting American standards previously recorded only by women, like My Man, The Man I Love and Mad About The Boy.

“At a time when gay people were deep in the closet, here was an album for them,” said JD Doyle, a record archivist. “There was nothing to compare with it.”


There was also no information about it – at least not until recently. For decades, Love Is a Drag was listed in various cult publications aimed at collectors. But those listings never gave credit to the singer or included an original release date for the disc. Doyle, a collector of records relevant to LGBT history, first saw mentions of the mysterious album back in the 90s and became intrigued. He believes it’s the first full-length recording of male-to-male love songs. In 2004, Doyle started playing cuts from the album on a monthly Public Radio segment he hosted in Houston titled Queer Music Heritage. His dream? To finally discover the odd disc’s backstory. A “Eureka!” moment arrived in 2012 when the album’s producer, Murray Garrett, emailed him after discovering that Doyle had written about the music on his website. “Murray was in his late 80s then and he was looking back at his life,” Doyle said. “To have him email me was like the Holy Grail knocking at my door.”

Garrett agreed to an interview with Doyle, which the radio host then archived on his site. Several years later, the history-minded label Sundazed got wind of the interview and contacted Doyle, leading to this month’s rerelease of Love Is a Drag. Interestingly, it arrives just as a greater number of LGBT artists are doing more than simply announcing their identity in public or in their songs – the norm of the last few decades. More recently, young artists such as Frank Ocean, John Grant, Olly Alexander, Mary Lambert and Troye Sivan have been singing love songs which use the proper pronoun for the object of their desire – a rarity until now.

That this shift took over half a century to become common highlights the radical nature of the original Love album. To make the disc even more unusual, every person involved with it was actually straight.

The idea which led to the album dates back to a night in 1946 when Garrett – a prominent celebrity photographer for Life magazine – was taken by a friend to a bar in Greenwich Village. A handsome young man came out on the club’s stage and started to sing standards normally performed by a woman to a man. Garrett was confused until his friend informed him that they were in a gay bar. The naive, but unfazed, photographer later told Doyle he was so impressed by the quality of the music that the night stayed in his mind “for years and years”.

Flash forward to the early 60s: a friend of Garrett’s was starting a record company in Hollywood and asked the photographer if he had any ideas for projects that would make a splash. Garrett thought a man singing love songs to another man would more than fit the bill. To find a singer, Garrett turned to his photography partner, Gene Howard, who had earlier performed with Stan Kenton’s band. The singer told him he had two daughters and a wife to consider, not to mention a career. According to Doyle, Howard’s wife asked just one question about the project: “Is it going to be done with dignity?”




In fact, the album featured some of the best LA session musicians of the day. Unfortunately, by the time of its release, the record company had little money for promotion. The album’s reputation spread solely by word of mouth, mainly in the Hollywood community Garrett and Howard knew well. Gay waiters and car hops started buying copies, up to six at a time. When Garrett played it for his friend Frank Sinatra, Doyle said, the icon ordered a dozen copies. After the photographer gave a copy to Bob Hope, the comedian “went crazy. He loved it,” according to Garrett.

Likewise, when the photographer played it during an album cover shoot he had with Liberace, the flamboyant star picked it up off the record player and walked off with it. Later, he told Garrett that Love was his favorite recording. Over the years, the album became a cult item, selling for up to $200.

Three years after the album appeared, a company called Camp Records started releasing novelty songs featuring lisping vocalists on demeaning numbers like Homer the Happy Little Homo. But the same mysterious company also released an earnest, gay-oriented album titled Mad About The Boy.

As far back at the 1920s, blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith had been singing about gay characters, though they were loathe to directly express their own desires. Sincere gay love songs didn’t appear in greater numbers until the “women’s music” movement of the 70s, with artists including Holly Near, Meg Christian and Chris Williamson. “Women were always better organized,” said Doyle. “They had women’s bookstores and coffee shops to market this music.”

Even so, a man, Steven Grossman, became the first openly gay star on a major label when Mercury Records released Caravan Tonight in 1974. In the 80s, a few more stars came out, such as Bronski Beat and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Far more did the same in the 90s, including kd lang, Melissa Etheridge, the Pet Shop Boys and Elton John. But until recently, even “out” stars rarely mentioned the gender of their lovers, preferring to address a vague “you” rather than the specific “he” or “she”. In his 2012 interview with Doyle, Garrett expressed pride in his pioneering effort in providing that kind of specificity. “We figured we had the chance to do something we would be proud of,” Garrett said. “My gay friends said ‘thank you for not giving into any temptations to do something that might have gotten some laughs’. As I look back, Love Is a Drag was one of the highlights of my life.”

•••

Here’s a look at the swelling wave of young stars who freely use the appropriate pronoun in their love songs:

Kevin Abstract: On the title track of his new album, singer/rapper Abstract offers an ode to his “American boyfriend”.

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Frank Ocean: The R&B star sings of male-to-male love with lines such as: “Forrest Gump, you run my mind, boy / Running on my mind, boy.”

Tegan and Sara: In their 2016 song Boyfriend, the duo sing: “You turn me on like you would your boyfriend / But I don’t want to be your secret anymore.”

Olly Alexander: The frontman of the hit group Years and Years delivered these lines in 2015’s Real: “I’ll do what you like if you’ll stay the night / You tell me you don’t think you should / You do it, boy.”




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John Grant: In a 2013 track, Grant included the lines: “It doesn’t matter to him / I could be anything / But I could never win his heart again.”

A Great Big World: A straight man (Ian Axle) and a gay man (Chad King) bond in the hit group A Great Big World. To reflect their difference, in Hold Each Other, Axle uses the pronoun “she” while King uses “he”. “It became a very powerful song for us,” Axle has said.

Troye Sivan: In 2014’s Gasoline, the YouTube sensation sang: “I see your outline in my bed / In the same spot I watched him rest his head.”

Mary Lambert: In the chorus of the 2013 smash by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Same Love, Lambert croons: “My love, my love, she keeps me warm.”

March 9, 2015

Homophobia in Hip Hop and Gay Rappers




Gay Rappers React To Homophobia In Hip Hop
VH1 collects the thoughts of numerous gay rappers about homophobia in Hip Hop, among other topics.
Rap music has long been associated with homophobia. Gay acceptance among many of its artists is rarer than other elements of society.
VH1 recently spoke with a few gay rappers about their experiences with homophobia in Hip Hop and different answers emerged.
"I have been in a studio session and heard people talking about me through the wall," Fly Young Red said when asked about homophobia in Hip Hop. "'Yeah, that’s that f— that made that song' and I have also been in situations where I was buying a beat and when I told the guy who I was he didn’t want to sell it to me anymore. They think it’s like, 'Man I can’t have my name on no gay shit.' It is what it is and if you fuck with me, you fuck with me. These guys knew who I was, and I couldn’t tell you who any of them were to save my life, so apparently I’m doing something right."
Siya says she hasn't experienced as much homophobia but opportunities have been more limited to her because she refuses to change who she is.
"I haven’t dealt with obstacles because I was gay, I’ve dealt with obstacles because I wouldn’t change my image," she said. "I would do record label meetings and they would say 'You’re so dope! You’re so different!' but then they would ask, 'Can we put you in a dress? Can we femme it up a little?' And I’m not willing to change who I am for anyone, not what I look like, not what I dress like. That always brought me to a roadblock but I’ve never been one to fall victim to this industry."
Along with Fly Young Red and Siya, Cakes Da Killa and Y-Love were also asked about Empire'sportrayal of Jamal, who is a gay character in the show.
"I think it has moments of brilliance and then moments that let me down but I think it’s good that we have a show that has a full black cast because that doesn’t really happen a lot on television," Cakes Da Killa said. “They are taking a lot of chances having an openly gay character that doesn’t really fit the general stereotype."
by PAUL MEARA
Read the full collection of interviews here.

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