We've probably all seen the TV infomercials for Time-Life Records' various music compilations, e.g. "Love Songs", "Groovy 60s", "Mellow Moods", etc. I've bought a number of them, and am glad I did, because they introduced me to some great songs. One in particular was Secretly by Jimmie Rodgers. It entered Billboard's Top 40 today in 1958 and became a #3 hit. (Rodgers is best known for the song Honeycomb which topped the charts for four weeks the year before.) It's a pleasant tune, typical of so many songs from this vanilla decade, but what got my attention was its gender-neutral lyrics. In my interpretation, the song tells the story of two men who, due to the mores of the 1950s, must conduct their romance "secretly". Here's the chorus:
"Wish we didn't have to meet, secretly
Wish we didn't have to kiss, secretly
Wish we didn't have to be afraid to show the world that we're in love
'Til we have the right to meet openly
'Til we have the right to kiss openly
We'll just have to be content to be in love secretly."
Of course, these lyrics could also apply to a West Side Story situation between a boy and girl of different races or ethnicities. Still, I thought the hidden message was a bit daring for the conformist 1950s. (Reminds me of the secret delight I got when I first listened to the Village People's innuendo laden songs.) I'm curious whether the song was popular with homosexuals at the time.
Of course, there have been other gender neutral songs such as Secret Love by Doris Day, and the Beatles' Do You Want to Know a Secret?, but their lyrics don't have an air of illicitness to them. One that does, however, is the disco classic by Madleen Kane, Forbidden Love, from 1979. In the song's opening line, Kane sings, "How can you stop a trembling hand, reaching for another hand, even though it is forbidden love?"
Here's a wonderful video/photo montage from a website called "GayTwoGether" that has been set to the very song discussed here: