If we were to ask you to name some of the world’s most popular out LGBT musicians, the first names that would pop into your head would probably be the likes of Freddie Mercury, Elton John, George Michael, Adam Lambert, Ricky Martin, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Tegan & Sara, Jessie J and Lady Gaga, right? But what about the lesser-known artists or those who have kept their sexuality more private and under the radar? Here are some of Gay Homestays’ favourite LGBT musicians who are perhaps not as famous for their sexuality as they are for their careers or discographies that we think you should take a listen to:
“Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith was married but both she and her husband were known to have affairs – and she allegedly did so with both men and women. However, she never publicly announced her sexuality but bear in mind this was during a time when such ideas about LGBT people – particularly from the black community – were not condoned.
Soul and blues singer Dusty Springfield helped change the face (and sound) of these genres as one of few white artists to record this kind of music, especially being British and female. She was openly bisexual, a risk she took at the time when LGBT people in the media and in the public eye were frowned upon.
Though married to handsome actor Josh Duhamel and being a Catholic who says she attends church regularly, Black Eyed Peas singer and rapper Fergie came out as bisexual in 2009.
Frank Ocean’s statement of having once been in love with a man was a landmark in the history of hip hop music, being the first out LGBT person from this industry – or at least the first to admit he has been in love with a person of the same sex (even though he says it was unrequited).
Soulful rocker Janis Joplin was known to have dated both men and women even though she never officially came out as bisexual. Joplin was one of the most influential female soul, blues and rock artists of all time.
In 1982, legendary crooner Johnny Mathis allegedly came out as gay saying “homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to” though this statement was later retracted. Since then he has rarely talked about the subject but has said he had to stop due to death threats and so has kept his personal life as hidden as possible from the public eye.
Lead singer of British indie rock band Bloc Party Kele Okereke came out as gay in 2010 but has not discussed his sexuality or private life much since then, admitting he is extremely shy and dislikes being interviewed.
Like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey – “the Mother of the Blues” – was involved with women during a hard time for LGBT people, but unlike Bessie, Ma was unafraid of making sure people knew about it in her songs.
English singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf is openly gay and well-known among the British LGBT community, but outside of it and the UK he seems to have yet received credit we believe he deserves. Since his début in 2003 he has released six critically-acclaimed albums.
Though she is not officially out, rumours always seemed to have pointed to actress, singer, rapper and TV personality Queen Latifah as a lesbian so we believe she deserves a place on this list. Latifah was one of the biggest and most influential female rappers of the late 80s and throughout the 90s but has proven to be multi-talented as a singer and actress as well – as she showed us in “Chicago” as Matron “Mama” Morton.
Another well-known name among the LGBT community, Australian artist Sam Sparro has been praised by critics but has not yet hit the big time on a mainstream level, though his first single “Black and Gold” did peak at No.2 in the UK.
American country-pop singer-songwriter and former model Steve Grand hit headlines in 2013 when his song “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube. It is an autobiographical song that immediately cemented him as the music industry’s potentially next big openly gay star, despite not being signed to a label. He has since released two more singles and has been raising money via public donations to record his début album.
Dubbed as an “honorary” Queen of Disco in the 1970s, Sylvester enjoyed a successful career in the US on the dance charts throughout the disco era and through to the 80s, and his flamboyant nature and outrageous outfits certainly fitted well with the genre. He was famously out and proud but is perhaps a little less well-known compared to many other “disco divas” or other LGBT musicians who were around at the time.
Like Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman’s sexuality has never been confirmed but the singer-songwriter did openly date writer Alice Walker in the 90s, though details of her private life since then have not been in the spotlight.