Carl Bean, singer of ‘I Was Born This Way’, dies aged 77

Carl Bean, the American gospel singer and religious minister who found fame singing 70s pride disco anthem I Was Born This Way has died aged 77.

A statement from the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, the church for black queer people that Bean founded, announced his passing.

“Archbishop Bean worked tirelessly for the liberation of the underserved and for LGBTQ people of faith and in doing so, helped many around the world find their way back to spirituality and religion”, the church stated, saying he had now made the “transition into eternal life” following a long illness.

Born in Baltimore in 1944 Bean was raised by his grandparents, but shunned by his family when they discovered he was gay. At 16 he ran away to New York and joined a gospel group. After relocating to Los Angeles in 1972  he formed the group Carl Bean and Universal Love.

Motown Records signed Bean and his backing band and he released the disco song I Was Born This Way. The song, written by Chris Spierer and Bunny Jones, had previously been performed by another artist, but it was Bean’s recording that spread around the gay communities across America and around the globe.

With it’s chorus of “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay  I was born this way.” the song became one of the staples of the gay liberation movement of the 1970s. It also served as the inspiration of Lady Gaga who created her song Born This Way. 

The song has been remixed many times and often featured at gay celebrations, here in Perth is regularly been played on local radio program All Things Queer which airs on RTRFM 92.1.

In the 1980’s Bean trained as a minister and set up his own churches that welcomed people who were gay and Christians. It has expanded from his original congregation to 17 affiliate churches in the USA and Caribbean.  He also founded the Minority AIDS Project in 1985, the service still assists 1,500 people a year in South Los Angeles.

In 2010, Bean published his autobiography, I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom and a Ministry in Christ.

OIP Staff

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