The Most Influential LGBTQIA Musicians, June 24, 2016

Music is my passion, as many of you readers may have learned by now. Coming up with a Top 10 list in this category was difficult, as well. I had to not only look at the artist’s body of work, but the influence they have had on others. I have provided music videos with their music, so I hope you will check that out.

The Most Influential LGBTQIA Musicians (Top 10 – 1)

 Sylvester| Many of you may be asking who in the world is Sylvester? Only a well-known disco act known for being flamboyant as well as androgynous. He was also known for his beautiful falsetto voice. Sylvester was out and proud during the fabulous disco days of the 1970s. Sadly, during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, his partner was diagnosed and passed away fairly quickly. Sylvester was eventually diagnosed with the same disease and passed away in 1988. He will be remembered for his individuality and being out well before it was accepted. You can take a listen and watch the video by Sylvester to get a better sense of who he was; he was truly ahead of his time.Sylvester “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” video

Tegan and Sara| This Canadian indie duo (also twin sisters) debuted in 1995. These two came along during a time where people were becoming comfortable with the thought of being a part of the LGBTQIA community. This power duo has been open about themselves from day one, supportive of the community in many ways. They are on this list for their importance, especially for the younger listener, although all ages listen to them. Tegan and Sara “Boyfriend” video

Indigo Girls| It would be a travesty not to have this duo, composed of Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, on this list. From their debut in 1987, the Indigo Girls have consistently been an active part in the LGBTQIA community. Never backing down from who they are, they have also served as ambassadors to many causes. Each song is written from the heart and always has a true purpose. This list would not be complete without them.Indigo Girls “Galileo” video

Melissa Etheridge| Here is another artists who absolutely cannot be excluded. With the release of her self-titled album in 1988, an influential artist was born. What can you say about Etheridge that has not been said? Her public coming out at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural Ball in 1993 was influential to many. She has battled breast cancer publicly, and has lived her whole life out loud. With those raspy vocals, there is only one voice like hers.Melissa Etheridge “I Want to be in Love” video

k.d. lang| Here is another female artist who lived her life front and center as gay woman without apologies. Denied by Nashville, lang took her craft in different directions and still made an impact in country and pop music. She has finally received the respect and accolades she so richly deserves. From Roy Orbison’s “Crying” remake to duets with Tony Bennett and everything in between, she has proven herself time and time again.k.d. lang “Constant Craving” video

David Bowie| I can remember the first time I saw Bowie on TV. Who was this person? Was Bowie a he or a she? Did he care about gender confirmation? Absolutely no way! I remember looking to him and knowing he was different, but not in a bad way—even though people in Mississippi, where I grew up, did not get him. Bowie made no bones about his bisexuality, which was the first time I ever heard this term. I knew Bowie was the person for me to watch, as he just did not give a damn what people thought. His music opened a whole different side of me.David Bowie “Rebel, Rebel” video

Joan Jett| I have to give full disclosure here about Jett: As she came on to the scene with the Runaways, this is when I knew I was into girls. While I did not come out for some time, I always admired Jett. She took charge of her career, even after the Runaways folded. When a major label would not sign her, she started Blackheart Records. Jett truly does not care what others think of her and makes no compromises, even in her early part of her career where that was unheard of for women. She set the stage for many female artists: a strong female who—oh, yeah—is a part of the LGBTQIA community. Her influence is underrated to this day, but I think people are finally beginning to give her the props she deserves, starting with her recent induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.Joan Jett “Bad Reputation” video

Rob Halford| Some may question why I have Halford so high on this list. You have to think about what genre in music he is coming from: heavy metal. In a period where being out was not a good career move (late 1970s/early 1980s), Halford raised questions when he appeared in his “leather daddy” outfits. Was he gay, just really a badass in leather, or both? Halford is best known for fronting the band Judas Priest. In 1998, following issues that had recently occurred in the LGBTQIA community (the Matthew Shephard murder, for one), Halford revealed his was gay. He is ahead of his time, especially in the world of metal.Judas Priest “You Got Another Thing Comin’” Video

Elton John| Sir Elton John: I am not sure what I can say that has not been said already. John started as a pub pianist in England, which blows my mind when I think about it—but everyone must start somewhere. While he first came out as bisexual, he later announced he was gay. John and his partner, David Furnish, have become leaders in the community, both by being directly involved in many projects, but also by giving of themselves financially in a big way.Elton John “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” video with Kiki Dee

Freddie Mercury| Mercury was a musician, songwriter, and producer best known as the lead singer in Queen, a British rock band that formed in 1970. He was known not only for his stage presence, but also for having one of the best voices in rock ’n’ roll. Initially, Mercury often gave vague answers to questions about his sexual orientation; however, he maintained his flamboyant stage persona. When Mercury was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, the British press grabbed ahold of this information, reporting some truths, but also a lot of false information. By this point, the artist was living an out lifestyle. His HIV turned into full-blown AIDS, as the world lost one of its best talents on November 24, 1991. His death was also an eye opener for the HIV/AIDS movement, with Mercury becoming one of its public faces.Queen “I Want to Break Free” video

Thanks for taking the time to read! I want to hear from you about ones we may have omitted. What are the most influential to you? Please let us hear in the Comments section. Have a Happy Pride, everyone! | Tracy Fort

Check out Tracy on her internationally acclaimed radio program, The Tracy Fort Show, online or via internet radio apps. In addition to live streams, you can listen to podcasts of previous shows. Follow The Tracy Fort Show on Twitter at @TracyFortShow.


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