To commemorate Pride Month, Billboard ranked 25 of the greatest gay moments in music — from Madonna
stealing popularizing voguing, to Elton John and David Furnish getting married; from Lady Gaga fighting for LGBT rights to Frank Ocean coming clean about his sexuality and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis serenading same-sex couples at the Grammys. It’s a pretty comprehensive list, but there’s still a lot of great queer moments they missed. Here are 10 such moments, in no particular order:
Diana Ross Survives with RuPaul
Besides creating one of the greatest gay anthems of all time — 1980’s Chic-produced “I’m Coming Out” — Ms. Ross threw open her caped arms and embraced her LGBT fans for a cover of another gay anthem, “I Will Survive.” The video, shot in West Hollywood during a Pride celebration, saw the Supreme Diva joined by none other than the Supreme Drag Queen, RuPaul, along with a gaggle of other queens all serving their best Night of 1,000 Dianas drag.
The Kinks Fall for “Lola”
Rumored to be about Warhol superstar Candy Darling, whom Kinks lead singer Ray Davies dated for a while, the song about a romantic encounter with a trans woman was revolutionary for 1970 and paved the way for David Bowie and Lou Reed to experiment with sexuality in their music (and personal lives).
George Michael Declares His “Freedom”
These days George Michael is known for a series of bizarre public incidents and smoking more weed than Rick Ross on holiday, but back in 1990 he was one of the biggest male pop stars alive. Of course, he was hiding a very big secret at which he only hinted in “Freedom! ’90”. But the iconic video — featuring the supermodels of the day and really every day — burned the symbols of his early fame, presaging the George Michael we know and tolerate today.
Le1f Does Letterman
Queer rapper Le1f made waves when he called out Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for snatching his beat from “Wut” for “Thrift Shop”, but he finally got his time in the sun when the reigning King of Late Night invited him on to perform the track — which he naturally slayed.
Dolly Parton Pines for “Jolene”
The closest thing to a gay country love song in 1973, Dolly Parton’s classic tale of an auborn-haired temptress threatening to take her man focuses primarily on the beauty and charms of its titular heroine. Dolly seems as obsessed with Jolene as much as, if not more than, her man. Recently, Parton’s god daughter Miley Cyrus has brought the song kicking back to life via (pretty great) live covers.
Janet Dreams of Being “Together Again”
Originally intended as a ballad dedicated to a friend she lost due to AIDS, Ms. Jackson — we’re all nasty here — turned “Together Again” into an uptempo celebration of life. The song was a big fat hit and the second single from her celebrated 1997 album, The Velvet Rope, which, addressed issues about homophobia and same-sex attraction., No wonder another Janet — trans icon Janet Mock — called the album “pivotal”.
Elton John and Eminem Hug It Out
Eminem’s brilliant ode to an obsessed fan was also a source of criticism from GLAAD and other LGBT advocates who felt the lyrics to the song — and a lot of Eminem’s songs — were homophobic. In response, Em invited openly gay icon Elton John to perform with him on the 2001 Grammys. After the performance, Eminem not only embraced John, but also a warmer, fuzzier Marshall Mathers. Okay, not really.
Marketed as the first openly gay rock superstar, Jobriath’s hype proved too much to live up to. Signed to a lucrative deal with Elektra, Jobriath’s sexually ambiguous image was plastered on billboards in Times Square and full-page ads in Vogue, Penthouse and Rolling Stone ahead of the 1973 release of his eponymous debut album. Sadly, Jobriath flopped and the singer retired from the music industry two years later. Though he passed away due to complications from AIDS in 1983, Jobriath is being introduced to a new generation thanks to a documentary on the late rock god, Jobriath A.D.
k.d. lang Comes Out “Craving”
k.d. lang’s signature tune and biggest hit, “Constant Craving”, won her a Grammy and an MTV VideoMusic Award when both of those things still meant something. Bravely, at the peak of her success, lang came out as a lesbian on the cover of The Advocate — a year before Melissa Etheridge’s declarative Yes I Am. Though she was nervous about her decision, she helped kick open the closet door LGBT celebrities are still walking through today.
Janelle Monáe’s Electric Ladylove
Pint-sized dynamo Janelle Monáe’s androgynous style, refusal to label her sexuality and queer sensibility came brilliantly to a head on her latest opus, The Electric Lady: from the Paris Is Burning references in the Erykah Badu duet, “Q.U.E.E.N.” to her lady-loving Electric Lady persona in “Dance Apocalyptic” and the female fan who followed her “back to the lobby” in need of “some undercover love” in the Prince duet, “Givin’ Em What They Love.” This Electric Lady likes to get down and she’s not apologizing for it.