David Bowie Made Me Gay

BOOK SPECIAL: QUEEN AND COUNTRY  

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From Bessie Smith to Dusty Springfield, Elton John to John Grant, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music is a new book documenting the hidden histories of a number of iconic – and many less well-known – LGBT musicians, pulling back the curtain on the colourful legacy that formed our musical and cultural landscape.

Through new interviews and contemporary reports, Bristol-based author Darryl W. Bullock uncovers the real story of LGBT music makers, revealing the lives of the people who not only made the records but who witnessed first-hand the cultural revolution that they helped to create.

Darryl has chronicled the sexually progressive soundtrack to the LGBT community’s struggle for acceptance worldwide, taking us from the jazz and the blues years, through the interwar decades, and the emergence of glam rock and disco, genres which paved the way for the modern era’s out-gay pop stars.

David Bowie Made Me Gay also looks at the LGBT influence on perhaps more unexpected genres including country music, rap and reggae, and shows how attitudes are being challenged through music in parts of the world such as Russia, Jamaica and Nigeria. With 2017 marking the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, David Bowie Made Me Gay is a timely, provocative look at how LGBT culture has influenced the mainstream.

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Queen and Country caught up with Darryl on the eve of the launch of this exciting new book.

Q&C: What made you want to write a book like David Bowie Made Me Gay?

DWB: The death of David Bowie hit me on a visceral level. The idea for the book came from seeing how deeply others had been affected by his death, and from realising just how hugely influential he had been on what has happened musically over the last half century. There have been very few books which look at the history and influence of LGBT musicians outside of obvious genres, and I felt that it was about time that the real pioneers were given their credit.

Q&C: Why do you think music has been such a large part of LGBT culture?

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DWB: Music is something we can draw strength from in our darkest hours. Knowing that there are other LGBT people out there making music, or hearing LGBT artists on the radio (or Spotify!) can help people feeling isolated within their own families or communities to feel part of something bigger. Music can offer a big, comforting hug when you feel that there’s no one out there who really understands you.

Q&C: Do you believe music has helped to change attitudes towards the LGBT community?

DWB: Definitely. Having artists brave enough to come out and be open has been hugely important. When an artist announces that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans, then they usually take a large section of their audience along with them. No one stopped listening to Elton John when he came out, did they? As Patrick Haggerty, of Lavender Country, said to me: ‘Musicians make bad bigots’.

Q&C: There’s a strong political arc running through the book. Do you think that we’ve come to the end of our struggle?  

DWB: Absolutely not. We may celebrate our freedom in the UK, but for LGBT people around the world things are not so great, there are still around a dozen countries where you can face death simply for being in love with someone of the same sex. The intense homophobia being faced by people still must be combated. That’s our next fight as a community. The rise of the right wing we’re currently witnessing is a sobering reminder of what happened in the 1930s, and it’s worth remembering that these hard-won rights we enjoy could just as easily be taken from us.

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David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music is published on September 7 by Duckworth Overlook.

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