From the outset the opening premise was clear: what she wanted was love, what she desired was a guy and somehow it was to be kept a secret. The throbbing beat of the song kicks in much like a car backfiring followed by smoke escaping into the night sky which illuminates a revolving disco ball.
For gays, Donna Summers was that revolving disco ball centred just right in the tapestry of studio 54. Her music spoke to the gay audience like no other- it was by far gay people’s first encounter of music which spoke to them.
“Among the most loyal members of Summer’s fan base were gays,” says the author of Popular Music in America: the beat goes on Michael Campbell. He accounts how Summer’s with her ‘wispy’ voice and her desire to explore new areas of music managed to bring home the ‘erotic dimension of love’ which compounded gay audiences across the globe.
Gay people took a particular liking to Summer’s style, innuendos and continuous search for forbidden love- the quest it seemed started with her and the disco scene of the 1970’s.
Disco music had strong gay connotations amplified by artists such as Gloria Gaynor or The Village People. Although the music spoke to an audience which was seen by society as outsiders- it also acted as a bridge slowly building social acceptance through its lyrics and beats.
“Disco had clear gay associations as ‘Y.M.C.A.’ makes clear, but it was more music for gays” cites Campbell. He also suggests how working-class youth, in particular, used disco music as an outlet for outsourcing inner feelings.
More importantly, this music allowed gay people to have a new sense of social freedom which was helped in big part by lyrics and the beats of each song.
“They have everything for men to enjoy, you can hang out with all the boys” recited a bashful Y.M.C.A. many moments of disco chic.
As decades moved on the relevancy of gays and music become more potent. Wolf and Kielwasser in their book Gay People, Sex and The Media recalls how bands were propelled to the forefront of music as a direct result of their provocative gayness. From Frankie Goes to Hollywood to The Petshop Boys being provocative was very much second nature.
Wolf and kielwasser recount how The Smith’s lead singer Morrissey’s music was seen by Rolling Stone as a ‘rejection’ of the typical provocative nature of music which embraced gay themes but continued to be overtly outrageous. “I am human, and I need to be loved, just like everyone else” recites Morrissey within “How soon is now?” which details his attempts for gays to gain another step towards being accepted within mainstream.
These songs provided a base for mainstream audiences to be educated about the details of gay life. The songs also spoke volumes about the hurt in which gay people felt as appearing socially inept -this was fuelled by the aids crisis of the 1980’s. This gay voice only became stronger propelled by artists such as Madonna and Kylie who used their music as a way of reaffirming that it was a new day for the gay.
A new day indeed. At Open FM, a large portion of the week was spent discussion what music we will play.
It’s easy to assume that most members of the LGBT community all like Kylie and Madonna- but I think to assume never gets us anywhere. The LGBT audience are very diverse they like a mix of everything from new music to old classics. Over the next few weeks I’m sure the playlist will be on everyone’s minds- or not. But what’s for sure we should never forget the value of music- especially when it speaks with words not just with beats. Gays have a long standing with music and OpenFM will give you the best in new and old.