Bibliophile | David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music
by Darryl W Bullock
Duckworth Overlook

Music is an integral part of our lives and thanks to the media, we know all sorts of gossip about the lives of performers. I think Annie Lennox made me gay, but I had no idea about her sexuality. I was just attracted to her androgynous look and the power of her songs. Legal and political undercurrents have made sure that the sexual preferences of famous people, which are not necessarily static, are not always known.

Darryl Bullock’s thoroughly researched book documents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender musicians and huge influence they have had on fellow musicians the music industry. It is not a comprehensive guide to every LGBT musician but musicians who Bullock sees as spending “their lives fighting for us to be heard” over the last 100 years.

Like Boy George said when the androgynous David Bowie died, “Bowie was the light at the end of a very grey tunnel” who made oddities special. He blurred the lines between masculine and feminine and promoted casual sex with just about anybody you liked the look of.

Of course when ‘gender deviance’ was criminalized all over the world, “bright young things had to go underground” to create a risqué subterranean world. Bi-sexual was used as a protective shield, with many artists marrying but continuing to have same-sex relationships in private.

“Tchaikovsky, despite his disastrous marriage to ‘a woman with whom I am not in the least in love’ and all Soviet efforts to portray him as heterosexual, had a string of male lovers – including his own nephew.”

LGBT people were there as jazz emerged and Blues lesbians were “out and outrageous”. After Stonewall, LGBT lyrics became more obvious and glam rock star Alice Cooper queried why everyone was so uptight about sex. Yet while performers camped it up on stage, they found it difficult to come out of the closet, or were even forced to remain in.

Women’s Liberation brought strong female role models and women’s music festivals emerged – where there was more than just music at the all-female gatherings. Most of the time, it seemed a case of two steps forward and one step back as artists were forced to hide their personal lives.

In the 21st century changes to laws and the internet have made it easier for LGBT voices to be heard but same sex relationships are still outlawed in some countries and homophobia is entrenched in pockets of more liberal countries.

David Bowie Made Me Gay is nostalgic and solidly researched, and full of gems to remind us of the battles that have been raged by popular music … the battles that are still raging. It shows the soundtrack for a community fighting for basic freedoms and reveals many untold stories that have been hidden from history.

Lezly Herbert

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