Arts & EntertainmentMusic

Music and the LGBTQ Movement: A Steady Beat of Progress

OutSmart has featured Cyndi Lauper, Andy Bell, Ruthie Foster, Ty Herndon, and many more.

By Gregg Shapiro

When I tell people what I do for a living—that I am an entertainment journalist, writing reviews of music and movies, as well as doing interviews—they invariably have a lot of questions.

The funny thing is that as someone who spends a lot of time asking questions of musicians, filmmakers, actors and actresses, comedians, poets, playwrights, novelists, photographers, and assorted folks in the arts, I am often reticent about answering other people’s questions about myself.

Since the early days of this new century, I’ve had the privilege of having almost 90 of my interviews published in the pages of OutSmart. Writing mainly for the LGBTQ media is a fascinating (and occasionally frustrating) experience. For example, I spend a lot of time explaining to publicists—still, to this day—that the LGBTQ community’s tastes have expanded beyond divas, disco, and Broadway show tunes.

The good thing is that, in terms of music, queer artists have expanded into genres not known for being welcoming to LGBTQ performers. Some examples include blues musicians Gaye Adegbalola (whom I interviewed in 2006), Ruthie Foster (2014), and the late Candye Kane (2011); jazz artists Patricia Barber (2006) and Ann Hampton Callaway (2009); gay Canadian rapper SoCalled (2011); and Klezmer musician Lorin Sklamberg of The Klezmatics (2007).

Thanks to OutSmart, one of my most rewarding interview opportunities came when I had the chance to speak with country-music star Ty Herndon at the time of his coming out in 2014. I was fortunate enough to speak with him again in 2015. Fellow country artist Billy Gilman also spoke openly about being gay in a 2014 interview I did with him. Speaking of coming out, sometimes you get an unexpected scoop—as in the case of Carly Simon (2008) and Maja Ivarsson of The Sounds (2009).

Many out musicians (whose vocal and media presence has done so much to advance the cause of LGBTQ rights and acceptance) have also taken time to speak with me over the years. We owe a debt of gratitude to the words and artistry of Andy Bell, Ashley MacIsaac, and Rufus Wainwright (2003), Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, and Jill Sobule (2004), Jennifer O’Connor, Lucas Silveira of The Cliks, and Susan Werner (2007), Catie Curtis, Scott Free, Missy Higgins, and Sonia (2008), Emily Saliers (2009), Patty Larkin and Owen Pallett (2010), Seth Bogart, Diamond Rings, and Amy Ray (2011), Jake Shears and Jay Brannan (2012), Spencer Day, Steve Grand, Levi Kreis, Vicci Martinez, and Sara Quinn of Tegan and Sara (2013), Ferras and Mary Lambert (2014), Jonny Pierce of The Drums (2017), and others.

The LGBTQ community has a reputation for being voracious readers and lovers of literature. Over the years I have spoken to an assortment of writers, including Caryn Aviv and David Shneer (2002), mystery novelist Greg Herren (2002), humorist Kim Ficera (2003), award-winning graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, actor and memoirist Craig Chester, gay novelist John Weir, and trans novelist T Cooper (all 2006), gay novelists Aaron Ham-burger and Samuel Park (both 2007), poet Dan Vera (2013), and comedian Paula Poundstone (2018).

It goes without saying that the gay presence in film and TV is immeasurable, exemplified by my interview subjects that have included TV producers Neil Meron, Craig Zadan, and Chuck Ranberg (2004), the Next Food Network Star winners The Hearty Boys (2007), filmmakers Ira Sachs (2013) and Patrik-Ian Polk, Oscar-winner Tarell McCraney (2016), and actor and illusionist Michael Carbonaro (2017).

Of course, we wouldn’t be anywhere without our allies, including Tori Amos (2001), Linda Eder (2003), Aimee Mann (2008), Idina Menzel (2009), Joe Manganiello (2012), Helen Reddy (2014), LeAnn Rimes (2017), and especially Cyndi Lauper, whom I had the honor of interviewing four times for OutSmart (2002, 2007, 2008, and 2017).

Congratulations to publisher Greg Jeu and the staff at OutSmart, including my longtime entertainment editor Blase DiStefano. Happy Anniversary, y’all, and many happy returns of the day!

This article appears in the April 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine. 


Gregg Shapiro

Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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