relationships

Some Pre 1980 Songs Referencing LGBTQ

A not – exhaustive list of some songs before 1980 that reference LGBTQ people and issues. (*Needless to say, these should all be contextualized for their relative milieu.  Some are direct in their topic, others oblique.  These are not necessarily advocacy or activist related songs and can contain tokenizing and stereotypical characterizations.)

Gene Malin – “I’d Rather Be Spanish than Manish,” 1932

Troy Walker – “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe,” 1962

Van Morrison – “Madame George,” 1968

Lou Reed – “Candy Says,” 1969 

The Kinks – “Lola,” 1970

Madeline Davis – “Stonewall Nation,” 1971

David Bowie – “John, I’m Only Dancing,” 1972

Jobriath – “I’m A Man,” 1973

Chris Robinson – “Looking for a Boy Tonight,” 1973

The Miracles – “Ain’t Nobody Straight in LA,” 1975

Valentino – “I Was Born This Way,” 1975

Rod Stewart – “The Killing of Georgie,” 1976

Sylvester – “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” 1978

The Village People – “YMCA,” 1978

Tom Robinson – “Glad To Be Gay,” 1978

Bonus spoken word:

Rae Bourbon – “Let Me Tell You About My Operation,” 1956

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Perfume Genius’s “Die 4 You”

In the androgynous / queer music video for “Die 4 You,” Perfume Genius uses erotic asphyxiation as a symbol of commitment and devotion.

Lyrics from genius.com:

Limit every second left
Until I’m off balance

Oh love
I’m there in spirit

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting

Oh love
See it through
I would die 4 you

Each and every breath I spend
You are collecting
Limit every second left
‘Til I’m off balance
Each and every breath I spend

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
Oh my love, oh my love

Oh my love, oh my love
Take your time
Oh my love, take your time
See it through

Kink Camp

The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.  

In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.

In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.  

Paris Burning and/or Burnt

The documentary Paris is Burning is a particularly important record of LGTQ people of color in New York in the 1980s.  More specifically, the film is about the ballroom subculture, made up primarily of young, disenfranchised LGTQ POC gathering to “walk” and dance (where “voguing” comes from) in costume.  The film has had a lasting impact on current vernacular, such as “shade,” “kiki,” and “realness.”

There was controversy after the documentary around compensation and how the project was represented by Jennie Livingston.  The subjects of the documentary lived difficult lives in poverty and the film ended with the murder of Venus Xtravaganza.  The resulting question is for documentary film makers as it is for ethnographers – When your career is based in the lives of your subjects, what do you owe them?  How might you change their lives by making them famous while they still live in poverty?

The discord around the film reoccured around the 2015 Celebrate Brooklyn screening of Paris is Burning, which was to be accompanied by Jennie Livingston and DJ’ed by JD Samson, both of whom are white queer people.  No people of color or representatives from the continuing ballroom scene were invited.  Attention was quickly drawn to the silencing of people of color around their own stories and parallels to ongoing gentrification in Brooklyn.  A change.org petition declaring “#ParisIsBurnt” was started calling for canceling the event.  Ultimately Samson dropped out and ballroom participants who appeared in the documentary were invited to participate.

This year the documentary Kiki was released and has drawn parallels to Paris is Burning, though the director seems to have taken a more collaborative approach and learned from Livingston’s mistakes.  It looks at the contemporary ballroom subculture, the importance of DIY, and activism.

The Box It Came In

One of my favorite songs, this was recorded by Wanda Jackson in 1965.  It holds many of the common subjects found in country music, with the overall theme of “It’s All Over” as explored by Peter Lewis, plus a bit of gender based comeuppance at the end.

Lyrics (from metrolyrics):

My clothes are all ragged my goodwill coat’s not the best
And I’m a walking on cardboard in my last dollar dress
I looked in the closet for my wedding gown
But the box that it came in was all that I found
He took everything with him that wasn’t nailed down
Bet he’s got a new sweetheart to fill my wedding gown
But somewhere I’ll find him then I’ll have peace of mind
And the box he comes home in will be all satin lined

He took everything with him that wasn’t nailed down
Bet he’s got a new sweetheart to fill my wedding gown
But somewhere I’ll find him then I’ll have peace of mind
And the box he comes home in will be all satin lined