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Boy Crushes on Male Singing Stars of the 1960s & '70s

Dennis wilson beach boys

 

A number of years ago I wrote a post about male stars of TV shows in the 1960s and '70s who I fancied when I was a kid.  Now, in this post, male singers from that era who roused my innocent attention get the spotlight.  For the most part I watched these singers when they performed on popular variety shows such as Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams or American Bandstand.  As you'll see, I didn't have one type; some singers had masculine swagger, some possessed long-haired sexiness, while others exuded cool sophistication.

 

DENNIS EDWARDS (The Temptations)

The lasting memory I have of Edwards as lead singer of the Temptations was his performance of their hit song from 1969, I Can't Get Next to You, on the Andy Williams Show.

 

Dennis edwards_temptations

 

LEVI STUBBS (The Four Tops)

Stubbs' voice is strongest on hits of the Four Tops such as Bernadette, Standing in the Shadows of Love, Baby I Need Your Loving and Shake Me, Wake Me.

 

Levi stubbs four tops

 

CAT STEVENS

The ethereal Stevens was a prototype for the 21st century's metrosexual.  I was attracted more to his looks than to his songs.

 

Cat stevens

 

JIM MORRISON (The Doors)

Like Cat Stevens, I liked Morrison's mop of unruly hair and his feline sexiness (Mic Jagger of the Rolling Stones was very similar, but he just didn't do it for me).  Favorite songs of his are Love Her Madly, Touch Me and Riders on the Storm.

 

Jim morrison doors

 

KEITH POTGER (The Seekers)

Potger was one of the three musicians of the Australian group The Seekers (biggest hit was Georgie Girl) who backed up singer Judith Durham.  Unlike Jim Morrison's brooding presence, Keith had a sunny disposition.  

 

Keith potger guitar

  Keith potger_seekers

 

LARRY RAMOS (The Association)

Ramos always seemed to have a kind persona.  Born in Hawaii, he reminded me of a former boyfriend of mine who was from Ecuador.

 

Larry ramos the association

 

TED BLUECHEL (The Association)

Even before he grew his hair long and grew facial hair, Bluechel's clean cut was equally appealing.

 

Ted bluechel_the association

 

EDWIN STARR

Most famous for his anti-war song from 1969, War (What is it Good For?), Starr had a club hit during the disco era with Contact.  Other songs of his that I like include Headline News, Twenty-Five Miles and HAPPY Radio.

 

Edwin starr_war what is it good for

 

MARVIN GAYE

His duets with Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross were especially beautiful.  His cool persona brings to mind that of Barack Obama.  Sadly, he died the day before his 45th birthday (shot by his father).

 

Marving gaye smiling in suit

 

Marvin gaye

 

MIKE NESMITH (The Monkees)

Nesmith was goofy-cute rather than debonair or sexy.

 

Mike nesmith

 

TEDDY PENDERGRASS

Pendergrass exuded sex.  By far his best song as a solo artist, in my estimation, was Close the Door.  He also had great songs leading Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (Bad Luck, Wake Up Everybody, Satisfaction Guaranteed). 

 

Teddy pendergrass

 

SAM COOKE

Another cool and debonair act in the Marvin Gaye mold.  And like Gaye, his life, unfortunately, was cut short by a bullet (at the age of 33).

 

Sam cooke

 

DENNIS WILSON (Beach Boys)

Wilson turned crazy as the years went by and he died young (39).

 

Dennis wilson beach boys early years

 

Dennis wilson bare chested

 

JOHNNY MATHIS

He eventually came out, but like Barry Manilow, it was no great surprise.  Besides Chances Are, his holiday song Sleigh Ride is high on the list of my favorite songs of his.

 

Johnny mathis in a tux

 

Johnny mathis_sleigh ride

 

NINO TEMPO

Nino was paired up with April Stevens; their one hit song was Deep Purple from the early '60s.  His appearance reminds me of the Italian fathers who lived in the town I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

 

Nino tempo


Some Favorite Christmas Songs From A Gay Baby Boomer's Point of View

Merry gay christmas

 

A few days ago I came across a post on Billboard.com titled 15 LGBTQ Songs for a Holiday Kiki.  It was a fun read, and there were even a few songs I knew, but for the most part it was created with young gays in mind.  And to be honest, from my silver-haired perspective, most of the songs didn't have a very Christmas-y vibe and were often tacky or a bit sleazy.  This inspired me to draw up my own list, reflecting the sensibility of a Gay Baby Boomer.  My selections range across eras, from the mid-1940s all the way to the 21st century; some of the artists are gay, others are gay icons of my generation.  The songs are a mix of standards and musical styles, with a twist of camp thrown in.  Here they are, in no particular order ...

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, DARLING - The Carpenters (1970)

I was in 8th grade when this song was released, and like many gay boys of my generation I fell in love with Karen Carpenter's voice.  In the course of four months at the end of 1970 the Carpenters released Close to You, We've Only Just Begun and then this beauty.  To this day I still find myself replaying the end of the song, with its beautiful layering of voices.  Category: Icon

 

The carpenters at christmas

 

 

JOY TO THE WORLD - Joan Sutherland (1965)

Soprano Sutherland's bombastic delivery suits this grand song like a red-velvet glove.  Julie Andrews also has a beautiful, more delicate rendition of this song.  Category: Icon (of Opera Queens). 

 

Joan sutherland joy to the world

 

 

JINGLE BELLS - Jim Nabors (1970)

Nabors' hearty baritone gives this lightweight chestnut a unique (and amusing) power. Category:  Gay performer (RIP)

 

Jim nabors christmas album

 

 

STEP INTO CHRISTMAS - Elton John (1974)

This is the only rocker on my list.  Category: Gay performer

 

Elton john step into christmas

 

 

MY FAVORITE THINGS - The Supremes (1965)

A nice use of sleigh bells in the background.  Category: Icons

 

The supremes christmas album

 

 

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS - Judy Garland (1944)

This song is from the movie Meet Me In St. Louis.  Another classic Judy Christmas memory is the Christmas telecast of her eponymous variety series from 1963-64.  Category: Icon

 

Judy garland - have yourself a merry little christmas

 

 

LAST CHRISTMAS - Wham! (1986)

A beautiful, adult-oriented classic.  Sadly, 2017 was the first Christmas season without George Michael, who died last Christmas (no pun intended).  And while the song is very pretty, its accompanying video is awful (as most '80s videos are); still, it's been viewed more than 300 million times.  Category: Gay performer (RIP)

 

Lastchristmas

 

 

JOY TO THE WORLD - Whitney Houston (1996)

This version is from the movie The Preacher's Wife, which starred Houston.  Category: Icon (RIP)

 

Whitney joy to the world

 

 

SANTA BABY - Madonna (1987)

While Eartha Kitt's version from the early 1950s is certainly a hoot, Madonna's has a processed smoothness along with her Betty Boop voice.  Category: Fading Icon

 

Madonna___santa_baby_by_rymc730-das2lmd.png

 

 

HAPPY HOLIDAY - Peggy Lee (1960)

This has Miss Peggy Lee's signature cool jazz styling.  Category: Camp

 

Peggy lee christmas

 

 

CHRISTMASTIME IS HERE - Billy Porter (2001)

Porter appeared on this benefit CD twelve years before he won the Tony for Best Actor for his performance in the musical Kinky Boots.  (Unfortunately, I could find no YouTube link.)  Category: Gay performer

 

Broadway cares - home for the holidays cd

 

 

WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS - Cast from Glee (2010)

This is upbeat, fun version from the TV show, Glee, first appeared in the Broadway production of Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, in 1966.  And Lucille Ball played Mame in the 1974 movie (the 1958 movie with Rosalind Russell, titled Auntie Mame, wasn't a musical).  Category: Iconic TV series

 

Lucille ball as mame

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS SONG - Donna Summer (1994)

This is a beautiful version, especially the plaintive piano ending, which brings to mind the beginning of Summer's Last DanceCategory: Vilified Icon

 

Donna summer - the christmas song

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL - Denise Montana & the Salsoul Orchestra (1976)

This selection has a very chill vibe - very urban gay.  Category: Tom Ford

 

Salsoul christmas jollies

 

 

WINTER WONDERLAND - The Andrew Sisters w/Guy Lombardo & Orchestra (1946)

This version was featured in The Polar Express, and played in the vast emptiness of the North Pole gift operation, which gave off a reverb-effect sound quality, which is different from its original version.  Category: Camp

 

Andrew sister - winter wonderland

 

 

IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR - Diana Ross (1993)

This performance aired during the 1993 PBS holiday special, Christmas in Vienna (other years featured Natalie Cole and Kiri Te Kanawa).  Ross looks exquisite.  This is a great song made even better by her breathless delivery.  Category: Icon

 

 

Diana ross - christmas in vienna

 

 

KISSING BY THE MISTLETOE - Aretha Franklin (1962)

A fun song from the very early years before Aretha's rise to Queen of Soul-dom (she was 20).  Category: Icon

 

Mistletoe - gay kiss

 

 

THE MAN WITH THE BAG - Kay Starr (1953)

No, she's not talking about condoms (or perhaps she is and I was too dim to catch the secondary meaning).  This song has a great, upbeat Big Band-ish tempo.  Category: Camp

 

Kay starr The-Man-With-The-Bag

 

 

PAT-A-PAN - David Archuleta (2009)

The adorable Archuleta stole the hearts of girls, their moms and gay boys when he competed on American Idol in 2006 at the age of 16, ultimately finishing second.  Category: Cute as a Bug

 

David archuleta - pat a pan

 

 

And not one of these selections included the song with the lyric, "Don we now our gay apparel"!

 

Here are links to a few more Christmas-themed posts:

The Hunks of TV's Cheesy Christmas Movies

"The Land of Misfit Toys" - An Early Gay Anthem?

What Makes the Yuletide Gay

K-Mart's Charmingly Risque Christmas Ad

Bette Midler Stars in Christmas-Themed Holiday Ad

 

 


An Appreciation of Bette Midler

Bette midler 1970s

 

Although I wouldn't call myself a devout fan, there's a soft spot in my heart for Bette Midler, a powerhouse of talent whose music, movies and TV appearances I've long enjoyed.  (Truth be told, I was also never a rabid fan of Judy, Marilyn, Liza, Barbra or Cher).  I wasn't yet living in New York during her Continental Baths years, never saw her perform live in concert, nor did I see The Rose or Beaches, but over a career that's spanned five decades I've had my share of exposure to her prolific creative output.  I'm happy she's had such a successful and enduring career (some might even refer to it as "divine").  Now, with her triumphant starring role in the Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, this seems a perfect time to salute her through my memories.

 

Bette midler hello dolly
In "Hello, Dolly!"

 

FAVORITE SONGS

My playlist is comprised of songs that were released between 1972-1977 and 1988-1992.  But nothing after 2000.

  • Friends (1972, The Divine Miss M) - Listening to it now, I find the line, "I had some friends but they're gone, someone came and took them away," chilling, since 10 years after the album was released this verse would hit home for many of us as the ravages of AIDS began decimating the gay community.  

 

Bette midler - divine miss m
Her first album

 

  • Do You Want to Dance? (1972, The Divine Miss M) - This was Bette's first song to enter the Billboard Hot 40.  I bought it as a single.  In the late 1980s Bette sued the Ford Motor Co. when it used a singer with a voice very similar to hers in a TV commercial.  A district court ruled against her but an appeals court overturned that decision.
  • Twisted (1973, Bette Midler) - A brassy cover of a song first released in 1952, the following year it was one of the tracks on Joni Mitchell's album Court and Spark.
  • I Shall be Released and Higher and Higher (1973, Bette Midler) - Both start out quietly, then build to a roar.
  • Strangers in the Night (Songs from the New Depression, 1976) - Remake of Frank Sinatra's classic, but with more pizazz.
  • Old Cape Cod (Songs from the New Depression, 1976) - A cover of a song from the late '50s which Patti Page made famous.  When I'd walk at night in Provincetown on a moonlit night I'd have Bette's version playing in my head.

 

Provincetown - captain jacks wharf
Captain Jack's Wharf in Provincetown, a place I stayed a number of times when I vacationed in P-town.

 

  • Tragedy (Songs from the New Depression, 1976) - Not to be confused with the Bee Gees disco hit by the same name, this is beautiful, plaintive song.
  • Yellow Beach Umbrella (Broken Blossom, 1977) - This one always makes me think of the Club Baths, where I first heard this tune.  And it was perfect in that setting with lyrics that suggested anonymous encounters, such as "and nobody there will ever know me well", "gonna be a mystery to everyone", and "nobody there will ever find out who I am".  The song was previously recorded by Perry Como, Andy Williams and Three Dog Night, which I found very peculiar because the song has such a female vibe to it.

 

Bette_Midler_-_Broken_Blossom

 

  • The Wind Beneath My Wings (1988) - Schmaltzy as hell but I always loved it, and I liked its beautiful music video as well.  It was Bette's only chart topper.  Three years before she made it an overplayed smash I bought a 12-inch dance version by a group called Menage

 

Bette midler - the wind beneath my wings
Performing the song at the 2014 Academy Awards

 

  • Miss Otis Regrets (1990, Some People's Lives) - Written by Cole Porter in 1934, Bette revisits the genre that was her trademark early in her career.
  • From A Distance (1991) - Brings back memories of the first Gulf War.  It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Stuff Like That There and Billy-A-Dick (1991) - From the movie For the Boys, both songs were written during WWII, bringing Bette back to her roots when she was identified with tunes like the Andrew Sisters' Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Glenn Miller's In the Mood.

 

Bette midler - for the boys
"For the Boys"
  • Ukulele Lady (1998, Bathhouse Betty) - A perfect, quirky with a retro feel to it that is vintage Bette.
  • In These Shoes? (2000, Bette) - This is a cover of a song by the late Kirsty MacColl from her 1996 album.

 

MOVIES I'VE SEEN

She's appeared in more than two dozen movies but I've only seen a handful: Big Business (1988, with Lily Tomlin); Ruthless People (1986, with Danny DeVito); Down & Out in Beverly Hills (1986, with Richard Dreyfus); Outrageous Fortune (1987, with Shelly Long) and For the Boys (1991, with James Caan).

 

Bette midler - down and out in beverly hills
"Down & Out in Beverly Hills"

 

TV SHOWS, MAGAZINES, ETC.

Guest starred on Cher's CBS special (Feb. 12, 1975) along with Elton John.  This was one of the pop culture highlights of my senior year in high school.

 

Bette midler - 1975 cher special

 

In People Magazine's June 30, 1975 cover story, there was a photo of Bette planting flowers in front of her brownstone on Barrow St. (the block off Seventh Ave. South).  I live near this street and think of this photo every time I walk on that block.

 

Bette midler - people magazine

 

A great Vanity Fair cover as well as an amusing photo spread inside the issue (Dec. 1991).

 

Bette midler - vanity fair

Midler_vf

Bette midler - vanity fair mowing lawn

 

Serenaded Johnny Carson (May 21, 1992).  Perhaps the highlight of Johnny Carson's last week hosting the Tonight Show was Bette hopping on his desk and singing You Made Me Watch You.  This affection was sincere since Carson launched her career when she appeared on his show for the first time in the summer of 1970 (however, her first national exposure was earlier that year on the much less popular David Frost Show). 

 

Bette midler - johnny carson

 

Starred in the TV version of the musical Gypsy (Dec. 12, 1993).  It took 10 years of cajoling before the show's late creator, Arthur Laurents, agreed to allow the  project to go forward.  The telecast was the fourth most popular show of the week and it won Bette a Golden Globe (but no Emmy).  Sadly, the movie's director, Emile Ardolino, died from AIDS complications the week before the movie was telecast.

 

Bette midler - mama rose in gypsy

 

Appeared in an episode of Seinfeld (May 18, 1995).  Playing herself, she's injured after Jerry slides into her at a charity softball game (his girlfriend is Bette's understudy in a musical called Rochelle, Rochelle).  While recuperating in the hospital Kramer decides to take care of her and presents here with a tiny likeness of herself made out of macaroni ("macaroni Midler").

 

Bette midler - seinfeld

 

Her love of nature and the people of New York City was the impetus behind the New York Restoration Project, a non-profit that Bette founded in July 1995.  It has championed neglected community parks throughout the City, restoring them through clean-ups and the planting of trees and greenery.

 

Bette midler - new york restoration project

 

Starred in a CBS sitcom in 2000-01 titled Bette.  (In the pilot episode her daughter was played by 13-year-old Lindsay Lohan.)  Unfortunately, this show was not a hit, and it's since been used as a prime example of how a big name doesn't necessarily mean a show will be a success with viewers.

 

Bette midler - cbs sitcom

 

During the 2011 holiday season Bette was featured in a commercial for the Honda Acura as an over-the-top Christmas caroler.

 

Bette midler - honda ad

 

Finally, the Caricatures ...

Bette_midler_risko
Artist: Robert Risko

 

Bette midler - al hirschfeld caricature
Artist: Al Hirschfeld

 

Bette midler - david coles caricature
Artist: David Coles

 

And if the 22 images in this post leave you wanting more, try the 2000+ images on this Pinterest page devoted to the Divine Miss M.

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Paying Tribute to Paul Parker, Disco Divo

Paulparker Paulparker.olderTwo gay men with the last name of Parker made their mark in two areas of entertainment in the 1980s - Al Parker, a gay porn icon, and Paul Parker, sexy singer of high-NRG dance tracks that resonated with gay disco bunnies (me included).  Both were born in 1952.  Sadly, Al died young in 1992 (age 40), a casualty of AIDS.  Paul, happily, is still with us and at the age of 63 he's still ruggedly handsome.  Best known for his collaborations with openly gay producer Patrick Cowley (an even earlier casualty of AIDS than Al Parker, passing away in 1982), Parker's voice lended swagger to Cowley's futuristic techno sound. 

 

What I liked about Parker's and Cowley's music was that it was written and produced for a gay audience, played largely at gay clubs and never entered the mainstream.  And since so many dance classics were sung by women it was refreshing to have the image of the hot, masculine Parker in our minds/fantasies as we danced to his music.  His big hit, Right on Target, went to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart in July 1982 (vying with Laura Branigan's Gloria and Sylvester's Do You Wanna Funk? as the song of the summer).  He also provided the vocals for Cowley's Technological World and Lift Off, had another solo hit, Desire, in 1984 and in 1986 he and Pamala Stanley (two weeks older than Parker) had a popular duet, Stranger in a Strange Land.

 

Rightontarget.paulparker

 

Parker.stanley.strangerinstrangeland  

 

Since his heyday Parker has continued to sing professionally, with occasional under-the-radar solo albums and back-up vocals.  However, it doesn't appear that his performing/recording have been that extensive to keep him busy for the past 20 years, but his biographical material doesn't shed any light on other endeavors.  (I could easily picture the San Francisco native running a bed and breakfast in northern California's Russian River area).  In fact, until I began researching this post it had been years since I last heard anything about him, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was still alive - and had maintained his good looks as a sexy "silver daddy".

 

Paulparkergreatesthits

 


Charles Busch Pays Tribute to the Leading Ladies of Cabaret

Recently I attended a one-night-only performance by Charles Busch, which was part of Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series.  The show, titled "The Lady at the Mic", celebrated the repertoire of Julie Wilson, Elaine Stritch, Mary Cleere Haran and Polly Bergen (and Joan Rivers was thrown in for good measure). 

 

CharlesBusch.Glen Hanson drawing

 

First, the positives:

  • Charles Busch - I love his stories and his female persona.  He conveys warmth and graciousness, with little of the crassness or bitchiness that is so often part of the routine of men who perform in drag.
  • The Venue - This was my first time at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room (in the Time Warner Center).  Rather than there being a wall behind the stage, there's a huge window that looks out onto Central Park South and 59th St., which is a pretty spectacular view.

 

Appelroom.jazzlincolncenter

 

  • Tom Judson - Busch's accompanist of the past four years, Judson is talented and sexy - even more so after I looked him up on Google Images.  Wow, how did he escape my attention all these years (similar to the reaction I had last year about singer-songwriter Matt Alber)?

 

Charlesbusch.tomjudson

 

Now, the negatives:

  • Charles Busch - Singing is not Busch's strength, at least not tonight.  Perhaps he had a cold since his voice was a bit ragged and he couldn't hit the high notes.  Thankfully, probably well aware of his limitations, his set was interspersed with his witty repartee and Tom Judson's contributions, so his singing was tolerable.  Also, during some of the less inspired songs my mind would drift as I gazed out at the cityscape stretching out behind the stage.
  • The Venue - Although the physical space is aesthetically pleasing, the seats were squashed together.  The seats themselves were chair-stools, so your feet couldn't touch the ground (even those of us who are six feet tall), which became a bit uncomfortable after about 10 minutes.  Also, the seats weren't very wide.  I've been more comfortable flying coach.
  •  Tom Judson - After the photos I saw on Google Images, it was a disappointment that he wasn't shirtless.

 

Tomjudson.shirtless

 

Nonetheless, the positives outweighed the negatives, and, anyway, an evening spent with Charles Busch is an entertaining one, so I went home with a smile.


Demi Lovato's Song "Cool For the Summer" - How Did I Miss Its Sapphic Message?

TwowomenIt turns out that one of my favorite songs of 2015, Demi Lovato's Cool For the Summer, had a bi-curious/lesbian theme that I was oblivious to.  I discovered this upon reading Entertainment Weekly's end-of-year review, months after the song was released (the magazine chose it as one of the top 10 singles of the year).  I thought it was just a song about generic, promiscuous boy-girl sex.  One lyric, "Don't be scared 'cause I'm your body type", puzzled me because of its awkward phrasing.  My interpretation was completely different from what was intended.  It turns out that Lovato was alluding to same-sex attraction when she sang "I'm your body type", but I thought she was simply referring to the type of body that a boy gets the hots over.  After learning of the song's intended message, lyrics such as "I'm a little curious, too" and "got a taste for the cherry" took on new meaning.  I've never thought of myself as being "out of touch" but that's the phrase that immediately came to mind when I discovered the song's true message.  No matter, I still love the song.  (And it's so much better than I Kissed A Girl.)

 

Coolforsummer.demilovato

 

 


Welcome Back, Giorgio Moroder!

Giorgio.moroder Giorgio.moroder.oldWhen I reminisce about the Classic Disco era it's sometimes a bittersweet experience because it brings to mind those stars who are no longer with us, such as Sylvester, Loleatta Holloway, Dan Hartman, Glenn Hughes (the Village People's leather man), Patrick Cowley, and Donna Summer.  (My parents likely experienced a similar sentiment when they thought back to the Big Band era.)  Happily, a legendary producer of the era, Giorgio Moroder, is still with us, and he recently released his first CD in more than 25 years, Deja Vu.  Now 75 years old, Moroder is a contemporary of Italy's other world-famous Giorgio, 81-year-old Giorgio Armani

 

I particularly like four tracks on this new CD (so much so that I bought them on iTunes):  Two of them, Right Here, Right Now (featuring Kylie Minogue) and Tempted are pop-oriented while Diamonds and Wildstar are dance-oriented.  Other artists who he collaborated with GM were Britney Spears, Sia  and Kelis.

 

Giorigo.moroder.dejavu

 

In my mind GM's name is forever linked with that of Donna Summer because he produced her string of double albums in the late 1970s.  However, he's also worked with a roster of other artists as well.  What follows are my favorites tracks that he's either had a hand in producing, writing or both.  Some were the biggest hits of their time while others are obscure gems (which somewhat adds to their appeal).

 

TROUBLEMAKER - Roberta Kelly (1976)

Moroder wrote this.  Great energy.

 

Roberta.kelly.troublemaker

 

TRY ME, I KNOW WE CAN MAKE IT - Donna Summer (1976)

18 minutes of languid disco without the moaning featured in Love to Love You Baby.

 

Donna.and.giorgio

I FEEL LOVE - Donna Summer (1977)

A song throbbing with the heat and ecstasy of sex.

 

Donnasummer.ifeellove

 

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

The quintessential disco track.  With synthesized pulsing and swooping orchestral flourishes, this may be my favorite Moroder number.  And the song was further enhanced when hearing it play at The Saint.

 

Giorgio.moroder.fromheretoeternity

 

I'M LEFT, YOU'RE RIGHT, SHE'S GONE - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

From the same album as From Here to Eternity, it has the catchiest title of any on this list, and also the most downbeat storyline.  Never has despair been so danceable.

 

Moroder.synthesizers

 

I LOVE YOU - Donna Summer (1978)

A beautiful, exhilarating song about two people experiencing love at first sight.

 

Donna.summer.i.love.you

 

THE CHASE - Giorgio Moroder (1978)

An electronic instrumental from the Moroder-produced soundtrack for the movie Midnight Express, it won the Oscar for Best Original Soundtrack.  Although it was ubiquitous on TV shows and sports programming of the time it rose no higher than #33 on Billboard's Hot 100. 

 

HARMONY - Suzy Lane (1979)

Brings back memories of prowling the corridors of the Club Baths where music from disco station WKTU was piped in.

 

Suzi.lane.harmony

 

 

LUCKY - Donna Summer (1979)

Recounts an experience many of us had on more than one occasion, i.e., the realization that the trick you thought might be the "one" was just a one-night stand.  This track is from Summer's Bad Girls double LP.

 

Newsweek.discotakesover

 

CALL ME - Deborah Harry (1980)

Moroder's biggest hit, this track (from the movie American Gigolo) made New Wave palatable to the masses.  It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and was ranked as the top song of 1980.

 

FLASHDANCE (WHAT A FEELING) - Irene Cara (1983)

From the smash movie Flashdance, this was another huge hit, the third most popular song of 1983.  Moroder co-wrote it and won an Oscar for Best Song.

 

RUSH RUSH - Debbie Harry (1983)

This light and bouncy number belied the violence of the movie it was part of, Scarface.  It was released as a single but failed to make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at an embarrassing 104.  I liked running to this song.

 

Debbie-Harry-Rush-Rush-182028

 

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM METROPOLIS (1984)

The instrumental, Machines, and the songs Here She Comes (Bonnie Tyler) and Love Kills (Freddie Mercury) come from the soundtrack to Fritz Lang's remastered 1927 movie classic, Metropolis.  The melding of Moroder's musical style to a black & white silent film was largely met with derision. 

 

Metropolis

 

CARRY ON - Donna Summer (1992)

Returning to his dance roots, this won Giorgio and Donna won a Grammy for Best Dance Track - five years after it was first released in 1992.

 

Donna.summer.carry.on


Arriving Late to Singer Matt Alber's Fan Club

Matt.alber.endoftheworldOne Friday not long ago I was having a cocktail after work with my friend Maury at our neighborhood haunt, the Monster, when a music video got my attention.  (It came in the middle of a string of dreadful videos from the 80s.)  In it a weary looking, but sexy, male singer is settling into a barber's chair.  Near the end of the video a handsome man in a suit enters the barber shop and the two of them proceed to do a beautiful slow dance together, ending with the stranger dipping the other and they kiss softly.  Maury told me the song, End of the World, was from 2008 - and the singer was openly gay.  His name was Matt Alber and he used to sing with the all-male choral group Chanticleer.  He reminded me of a hunkier version of Jeremy Piven.

 

Matt.alber.lincolncenter 

 

Because the sound of the video at the bar was muted (the show tune queens gathered around the piano wouldn't stand for audio competition!) I went onto You Tube when I got home and listened to End of the World, which was heartachingly beautiful.  I also watched his live performances and some other videos.  I especially liked Handsome Man and Tightrope (dance re-mix).  With a sweet face, friendly eyes, and lightly bearlike physique, Alber has a mellow, plaintive voice that brings to mind a cross between kd lang and Rufus Wainwright.  He also has a very approachable demeanor. 

 

Although Alber has recorded four CDs, he's pretty much under the radar, perhaps because his last two album were produced and distributed independently.  (His most viewed video, Handsome Man, has generated less than 500,000 views, making it practically unwatched by You Tube standards.)  This is probably the reason he's not as well known as other gay artists such as Jake Shears, Sam Smith or Adam Lambert.  In fact, in a blog post about "50 Great Gay Music Artists" on The Backlot from earlier this year, Matt wasn't counted among them (however, one commenter protested his exclusion).  But a few years earlier he was one of Out Magazine's "Hottest 100 Out & Proud Celebrities."  And he's developed a following in the bear community.  I think that the fact that he's not widely known adds to his appeal.  

 

Matt.alber.handsomeman
"Handsome Man"
Matt.alber.randyreport
"Tightrope"

Matt.alber.at.piano


Song Lyrics That Used the Word 'Gay' Before Its Meaning Changed

GayIf a song has the word 'gay' in its lyrics chances are it came from an earlier era, most likely before Stonewall and the beginning of the gay liberation movement (but there are exceptions).  Such songs use the word to describe a mood of happiness or lightheartedness.  When people hear these lyrics today some smile, others giggle, but traditionalists are often annoyed that the word has lost its innocent meaning.  (Occasionally a misguided soul tries to change 'gay' to 'happy' or 'fun' but then relents when his/her attempt is discovered and ridiculed in the media.)  For this post I've found seventeen songs that use the word the old-school way, and here they are ...

 

TWISTIN' THE NIGHT AWAY

This was a top-10 tune for R&B singer Sam Cooke in 1962.

 

Let me tell you about a place

Somewhere up-a New York way

Where the people are so gay

Twistin' the night away

 

Samcooke_twistin

 

THE GREAT PRETENDER

This was one of the biggest hits of the 1950s, by the Platters.

 

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender

Just laughing and gay like a clown

 

Platters_great.pretender

 

WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE

Like The Great Pretender this was another big hit from 1956.  Originally performed by Frankie Lymon & the Teenager, it was also a top 10 hit for Diana Ross 25 years later.

 

Why do birds sing so gay?

And lovers await the break of day?

Why do they fall in love?

 

Frankielymon.whydofools

 

IT MIGHT AS WELL AS BE SPRING

From the 1945 movie State Fair, it won Rogers & Hammerstein an Oscar for Best Original Song.

 

But I feel so gay

In a melancholy way

That it might as well be spring

 

Might.as.well.be.spring

 

LUSH LIFE

A jazz classic written in the 1930s by gay composer and lyricist Billy Strayhorn (who also wrote Take the 'A' Train).

 

I use to visit all the very gay places

Those come what may places

Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life

To get the feel of life

From jazz and cocktails

 

Lushlife.billystrayhorn

 

ALONE AGAIN (NATURALLY)

This maudlin pop song by Gilbert O'Sullivan topped the charts in the summer of 1972. 

 

To think that only yesterday

I was cheerful, bright and gay

 

Alone.again.naturally

 

STANDING IN THE DOORWAY

Written by Bob Dylan in 1997, long after the word 'gay' had its transformation.

 

I'm strummin' on my gay guitar

Smoking a cheap cigar

 

Bobdylan

 

THE MUMMERS' SONG

A somewhat generic New-Age song in the style of Enya or Sarah Mclachlan that was a hit for Loreena McKennitt.

 

We've been rambling all the night

And some of the day

Now returning back again

We bring a garland gay

 

Mummers.dance

 

KOOKABURRA

This is an Australian nursery rhyme.  The kookaburra is a large bird found in Australia and New Guinea that has a loud call that resembles human laughter.

 

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,

Merry, merry king of the bush is he

Laugh kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra

How gay your life must be!

 

Kookaburra
 

PETER COTTONTAIL

Here's another children's song, from 1949.  The composers, Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, would write Frosty the Snowman the following year (but with no use of the word "gay").  Peter Cottontail was released as a single by Gene Autry and it went to #5 on Billboard's Hot 100!  

 

Bringin' every girl & boy

A basketful of Easter joy

Things to make your Easter

Bright & gay

Peter.cottontail.gene.autry

 

I FEEL PRETTY

From West Side Story, this song has a gay pedigree as its lyricist was Stephen Sondheim.

 

I feel pretty, oh so pretty

I feel pretty and witty and gay

And I pity

Any girl who isn't me today

 

Ifeelpretty

 

GLITTER AND BE GAY

This comes From Leonard Bernstein's operetta Candide, composed in the 1950s.

 

Glitter and be gay

That's the part I play 

Here I am in Paris, France

Forced to bend my soul

 

And later in the song ...

 

Enough! Enough!

I'll take their diamond necklace

And show my noble stuff

And being gay and reckless

 

Glitter.and.be.gay
 

 

THEME FROM THE TV SHOW 'MOONLIGHTING'

Al Jarreau provided vocals for this jazz-infused theme song for ABC's detective comedy from the late 1980s.  It starred Cybil Shepherd and, in his breakout role, Bruce Willis.

 

Some walk by night, some fly by day

Nothing could change you, set and sure of the way

Charming and bright, laughing and gay

I'm just a stranger, love the blues and the Braves

 

Moonlighting.abc

 

HAPPY WORKING SONG

Sung by Amy Adams' character in the 2007 Disney movie Enchanted, this is the most recent example of a song tapping the word 'gay' for its earlier meaning.

 

And you’ll trill a cheery tune in the tub

As we scrub a stubborn mildew stain

Lug a hairball from the shower drain

To the gay refrain

Of a happy working song

 

Amyadams.happyworkingsong

 

THEME SONG FROM 'THE FLINTSTONES'

This was the first cartoon to air in primetime.

 

When you're with the Flintstones

Have a yabba dabba-do time

A dabba-do time

We'll have a gay old time!

 

Flintstones

 

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

Although the word 'gay' didn't mean 'LGBT gay', this holiday chestnut was first sung by gay icon Judy Garland in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis.

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let the yuletide be gay

From now on our troubles will be miles away

 

Judygarland.merrylittlexmas

 

DECK THE HALLS

This is likely the best-known song on this list, largely because it's been around since the late 19th century.

 

Don we now our gay apparel

Fa la la la la la, la la la!

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

 

Gayapparel

 

Finally, one of the readers of this post was inspired to post a video on YouTube with a medley of 34 songs, including most of those listed above.

 

 

 

 

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Anti-Gay Violence Addressed in Video for Hozier's Hit Song "Take Me to Church"

Hozier.take.me.to.churchI immediately liked the song Take Me to Church when I stumbled upon it on iTunes in October 2014, but it wasn't until three months later that I became aware of the song's video (brought to my attention by an interview in Entertainment Weekly with the song's vocalist/composer, who goes by his last name, Hozier).  The video tells the story of two gay men in the bloom of young love, perhaps experiencing their first same-sex relationship.  This tenderness is then juxtaposed with a group of young men in hoods, masks and clubs coming for them.  At its conclusion the video strongly suggests a horrific ending at the hands of the gang.  As I watched I was expecting/hoping that rescue of some sort would come, but it didn't, leaving me shaken.  Watching this video once was enough (thru October 2018 its had close to 240 million views on You Tube).

 

This video brought to mind the songs Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat from 1984 and Rod Stewart's The Killing of Georgie from 1976.  However, while the lyrics of both these songs communicated what the songs were about, a listener of Take Me to Church who hasn't seen the video wouldn't associate the song with homophobia or anti-gay violence (and the singer mentions his girlfriend).  Despite its deeply anti-religion message, I couldn't grasp the connection with anti-gay violence since the thugs who hunt down the gay couple don't appear to have a link to religion; they seem more like nihilists than devout churchgoers.

 

Smalltown.boy.jimmy.somerville

 

Despite being greatly troubled by the video I still think Take Me to Church is a wonderfully powerful song.  (And Hozier's been recognized for his craftsmanship with a Grammy nomination for Best Song.)