Pride Month is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop appreciating the contributions that the queer community has made on music!
We’re taking a look at some of the most influential queer artists over the years.
Jobriath was the first openly gay rockstar to be signed to a major record label.
Jobriath was born in Philly in 1946 and his musical talent was recognized early on in his life. He formed his first band at 18 before briefly attending Temple University.
Early in his twenties, Jobriath moved to LA where Jerry Brandt, Carly Simon’s former manager, discovered him. Brandt signed Jobriath to Elektra Records and his debut album was released in 1973. The record received rave reviews, with Rolling Stone saying that he had “talent to burn” and Esquire calling it the album of the year.
He released his follow-up album, Creatures of the Street, in 1974.
Jobriath passed away in 1983 due to complications from AIDS. In the years following his death, the glam-rock singer has become ingrained in the rock folklore thanks to one of rock’s most iconic queer artists, Morrissey, who was instrumental in a compilation album that was released in 2013.
Jobriath’s legacy lives on through the people he influenced, including Morrissey, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot.
British singer Marc Almond wrote in The Guardian in 2012, “for all the derision and marginalization he faced, Jobriath did touch lives.”
Today, those who knew Jobriath in his various guises — classical music wunderkind, glam rocker, interpreter of the Great American Songbook — remember his talent. “Whether he was composing epic symphonic music of searing intensity (and orchestrating it at 16) or brazenly appropriating the Rolling Stones’s idiom,” Batchelder, his former classmate, said in an email, “there was always beauty in his work.”
Here are some of our favorite Jobriath tracks:
Lil Nas X is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He was the first black openly gay musician to win a Country Music Award.
Lil Nas X was born in Georgia in 1999. He spent his teens on Instagram and Twitter making comedy videos, gaining an audience with his trademark wit.
Nas X started writing and recording songs in his closet and in December of 2018, he released the country rap song Old Town Road.
He bought the beat online for $30 and recorded it at a small studio in Atlanta. The song went viral in 2019 on TikTok. It debuted on the Billboard charts at 83, later climbing to number one. After an intense bidding war, Lil Nas X signed with Columbia Records in March of 2019.
The song was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country chart, sparking a conversation about Black artists being recognized in the country genre. Country music star Billy Ray Cyrus came out in support of Lil Nas X, later collaborating with the artist on a remix of the song.
He released his second single, Panini, in June of 2019. On the same day, Lil Nas X came out, quickly becoming one of the most visible Black queer male singers in the industry. This was especially significant for an artist in the country and hip hop genres, both of which have historically snubbed queer artists.
Lil Nas X’s debut album is still forthcoming. He’s released a few singles including Call Me By Your Name, Holiday, and Sun Goes Down.
Since his meteroic rise, Lil Nas X has been awarded by the Grammys, American Music Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards, and Billboard Music Awards.
Here are a few of his biggest hits:
Freddie Mercury was the lead vocalist for Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range.
Mercury was born in Zanzibar in 1946. He moved to England as a child, where he began taking piano lessons. After attending Ealing Art College for graphic design, Mercury joined a series of bands. In 1970, he teamed up with Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon, forming the band Queen.
Mercury is credited with choosing the name, saying: “It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.” Mercury also designed the band’s logo, known as the Queen crest, which combines the zodiac signs of the four band members.
Mercury’s vocal ability has been widely idolized. Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, described Mercury as “the best virtuoso rock ‘n’ roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and God, that’s an art. And he was brilliant at it.”
Mercury wrote 10 of the 17 songs on Queen’s Greatest Hits album, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, We Are the Champions, and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
He was known for his flamboyant stage performances, which fans lauded as a confident statement of his queer identity.
Estimates of Queen’s total worldwide record sales to date have been set as high as 300 million, earning Mercury a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Mercury defied the conventions of a rock frontman, with his highly theatrical style influencing artists such as Lady Gaga, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Dave Grohl.
Here are some essential Queen tracks:
Kim Petras is an independent German singer and songwriter. She is currently the most popular mainstream trans artist.
Born in 1992, Petras began recording music as a teenager. She started releasing music in 2008. In 2013, she was ranked at number 19 on Billboard’s Artist Chart, listing developing artists.
In 2017, Petras released her debut single “I Don’t Want It at All.” The song went on to reach the Spotify Global Viral chart. By the end of 2017, she was dubbed “most likely to dominate the pop charts” by Paper magazine.
Petras released her debut album, Clarity, in 2019.
She’s collaborated with a range of artists, including SOPHIE, Madison Beer, Kygo, and Charli XCX. She’s been dubbed as the “new princess of pop” by Billboard and ABC News.
Here are a few of his biggest hits: