Pride Month is fast approaching. As a way to recognize the LGBTQ community and celebrate some fantastic human beings; Quiet Magazine is going to provide you with the 5 most influential musicians in the LGBTQ community. This is a list of pioneers and trend setters that used their loud and proud personalities to make records and break barriers within the music and entertainment industry.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, better known to the world as George Michael was an English singer and songwriter. He was one half of the duo, Wham! as well as a highly accomplished solo artist.
Born in June of 1963, Michaels took up music at an early age. Learning to play multiple instruments throughout his teen years. After school, Michael decided he wanted to pursue a career in music and sought to start a band. It was through this endeavor he met long time friend Andrew Ridgeley. The two quickly began creating music together and in doing so, formed one of the more influential music duo’s of the time, Wham!
After the commercial success he had with Wham!, Michaels would go on to have a hugely successful solo career becoming one of the defining artists of the MTV generation, during the late 80’s early 90’s.
Throughout his career, Michaels would continue to push the boundaries of what many considered the conventional norm. His flamboyant style and loud attitude would carry over from his music into his personal life and in some situations he found himself in the midst of controversy and sometimes, even legal trouble.
Regardless, Michaels always remained honest and dedicated to himself and his craft. All throughout his life, he was an outspoken advocate of gay rights and would support various charities and foundations with his philanthropy work until his death in 2016.
George Michael’s legacy within the LGBTQ community rivals that of his music career and is cemented by his long standing support and activism. His stardom allowed there to be a different kind of attention to the LGBTQ community, this attention helped shape the future of inclusivity and equality within the entertainment industry. Because of this, Michaels is considered by many to be one of the most important musical figures in the LGBTQ community.
Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
Rob Halford is the vocalist for the long standing metal band Judas Priest. The iconic frontman known for his wide vocal range and keen fashion sense was one of the masterminds behind the heavy metal movement of the late 70’s early 80’s. Judas Priest as a band helped pave the way for many modern metal acts you still hear today.
Halford is largely considered to be a founding father of metal and is held in high regard within the metal community throughout the world.
His rugged demeanor also played into why Halford is so influential within the LGBTQ community, mostly because of the contrast between his lifestyle and the career path he was on as a heavy metal vocalist.
Heavy Metal music at the time was associated with aggressive, macho personas. Being out as the lead singer of a metal band wasn’t common at the time. Halford even went on to admit that was one of the reasons he was reluctant to come out in the first place.
Halford came out publicly in a 1998 interview with MTV and said he had waited to do so because he was afraid it would have a negative impact on his fanbase. Despite him being open about his sexuality, he stated that he never intended to have it be a part of the band’s content or image. Since coming out Halford has continued his advocacy for gay rights; suggesting that the world hasn’t “progressed” as much as he anticipated. Suggesting their is still a division in the music industry because of sexual preferences.
Halford said in an interview with BBC in 2012:
“You’d think there would have been some kind of change and people would have moved on after such a long time. Now that I’m moving through my heavy metal years (laughs), I thought a lot of it would be gone by now. And it’s a shame. We don’t really get to spend a lot of time on this planet together, so there’s no point in wasting it being divided.”
Halford’s bravery for coming out at the time was a sign of perseverance for those also struggling to come out. Regardless of his reluctance, Halford recognizes the impact it has had on the music community as a whole and regards the coming out process as one of the most important things I have ever done for himself.
The new-wave rock band from the 1970’s are one of the more influential “queer” bands in music history. Their hits, “Rock Lobster”, “Whammy Kiss”, and the iconic “Love Shack” have become synonymous with both pride parties and karaoke bars around the world.
Founded in 1976 in New York, The B52’s consisted of brother and sister Ricky and Cindy Wilson, Kieth Strickland, Fred Schneider, and Kate Pierson. The band grew too popular throughout the local New York music scene and soon gained commercial success with hits “Rock Lobster” and “52 Girls”. The booming New Wave sound along with the “dance party” image quickly made them a staple on radio stations around the country.
Not only was their sound influential to the LGBTQ community, but 3 of the 5 original members; Ricky Wilson, Fred Schneider, and Kate Pierson all identified as gay or bisexual and spoke openly about it in the contents of their music writing. In fact, Kate Pierson in an interview with Billboard in 2018, cited the underground club lifestyle scenes as being a catalyst for them becoming a band in the first place.
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All throughout their career, members of the B52’s have advocated for LGBTQ rights and have supported various foundations, including the AIDS project, in honor of founder Ricky Wilson, who died due to complications with the disease in 1985.
In April 2022, The remaining members of the band decided to announce a farewell tour spanning from August to November. Though this is listed as their farewell tour, original member Fred Schneider states that it is likely they will play one-off festivals and shows in the future, but can no longer sustain a full time touring schedule.
Sir Elton John may be one of the more profound figures in the music world over the last 50 years.
Since 1969, Elton John has been gracing the masses with his unique collection of blues, rock, and dance music, beautifully wrapped up into an eclectic and electric presentation. From composing music for Disney movies to topping music charts around the world, Elton John is on several all-time lists when it comes to his impact on the music industry. Not only did he largely influence the dance rock era of the 70’s but he also had a profound impact on the fashion industry raising the bar for what it meant to be a true performer.
His legacy has seen him transcend the music world into that of a world renowned public figure. He played for the Royal Family at the funeral of Princess Dianne of Wales in 1997. He was officially Knighted by Queen Elizabeth the II in 1998 for his philanthropy and services to his country; and he has been a long-time outspoken advocate of equal and civil rights, oftentimes getting involved with political level to help spread awareness.
Elton John broke barriers all throughout his career and encompassed what many believe to be a fighting spirit in terms of gay rights, advocating at many different levels. From protesting countries for anti-LGBTQ stances, to partnering with controversial rapper Eminem in what was a historic performance at the 2001 Grammys awards.
At the time, many of Eminem’s lyrics contained hurtful and often derogatory language toward those in the LGBTQ community. The Grammy performance, though seemingly done in solidarity, generated backlash toward John. Despite the backlash, Elton John addressed the performance with class responding, “I knew I would receive flak for the performance, but I rather tear down walls between people than build them up.”
With a career that has spanned over 50 years, Sir Elton John has been a force in the world of music, and the LGBTQ community. Back in 2018 John announced his farewell tour which has been extended to late 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is currently in the states, finishing the U.S. leg of the tour.
Freddy Mercury (Queen)
There isn’t much that can be said about Freddy Mercury that hasn’t already been said. An icon, a pioneer, a legend. The lead singer of British band Queen has been immortalized in the world of music.
Throughout their tenure as a band, Queen topped international music charts and became known the world over for their arena rock anthems. Mercury as the front-man of the band was known for his dynamic vocal range and his larger than life stage presence, setting the standard for performers throughout the 70’s and 80’s as Queen rose to stardom.
As for his personal life, Mercury battled with the public perception of him and his sexuality for sometime. He didn’t publicly address his sexuality for most of his life. In an interview Mercury did in 1980 with New Musical Press, a British music publication, Mercury was vague and avoidant when asked about his sexuality, only admitting that he was “young” and “experiencing things normal young men experienced”, in regards to his relationships and orientation. It is thought that Mercury was hesitant about being openly gay because of the cultural and social implication it could have on him and the band.
However, Brian May and other members of Queen claimed that Mercury was in fact open about his sexuality and just chose to not discuss it publicly because it could be used as a distraction from the band.
Towards the end of his life, Mercury did express his love and admiration for his long time partner Jim Hutton, who was bedside when Mercury passed away. Mercury referred to Hutton as his husband in a public statement towards the end of his life. Though Mercury chose to be more reserved with his sexual orientation, he is still considered a champion for the LGBTQ community because of the lasting impact his life has had not he community.
Rob Halford (mentioned earlier in this article) largely credits Mercury for not only influencing him as an artist but as a person claiming, “Had Freddy Mercury not been gay, queen wouldn’t have been what they are. It’s who the man was and it carried over into his personality and shaped how he approached his career and his life regardless if he chose to be open about it.”
Mercury was a well known advocate for gay rights and equality throughout Europe and the United States donating much of his wealth to various foundations and causes. Freddy Mercury passed away from complications due to AIDS in 1991. After his passing, members of Queen went on to form the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a trust in the honor of Mercury which has raised millions of dollars in support of AIDS awareness. In parts of the world, September 5th (Mercury’s birthday) is recognized as Freddy Mercury day, The Mercury Phoenix Trust holds an annual event on this day to continue to spread awareness for AIDS as well as to continue Mercury’s legacy.
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