LGBT+ Music in the 1970s
As the world embraced LGBT+ culture with glacial slowness during the 1960s, there was relatively little in the way of 'out and proud' music for the community prior to the arrival of disco in the mid-1970s. A handful of artists such as Dusty Springfield and Mama Cass wrote songs that would go on to become gay anthems, with Springfield in particular causing a stir when in 1970s it was discovered she had been in a relationship with Norma Tanega. But despite the open-mindedness of the hippie movement and the birth of Gay Pride events, the tolerance of openly LGBT+ songs and artists was still very limited and it would be several years into the 1970s before things changed.
One area of interest during the early 1970s however was the rise of glam rock and the androgynous appearance of many male performers of the scene. David Bowie embraced the extravagant visual elements of glam rock through make-up and striking outfits, and caused outrage when he not only came out in Melody Maker as bisexual but appeared live on Top of The Pops in 1972 with his arm around his guitarist's shoulders. Bowie would go on to conquer the decade with various revisions to his image, each twisting gender norms and inspiring a generation to challenge the status quo. Meanwhile the Kinks wrote the Number Two hit 'Lola' in 1970, a song about a romantic encounter between a young man and a trans woman, which ended up being banned in several countries.
The flamboyance of glam rock faded in the mid- to late-70s with the emergence of the punk scene. Eschewing societal expectations and embracing an anarchic approach to popular culture, at first glance punk may have seemed a violent and unaccepting place for LGBT+ people. Yet, by providing a space for those who didn't feel they fitted in with society and allowing greater self-expression, many LGBT+ musicians thrived during the punk years. Tom Robinson founded the Tom Robinson Band following his conversion to punk after a Sex Pistols gig, and released the song 'Glad To Be Gay' in 1978. Many LGBT+ artists of the 1980s found their feet during the punk and post-punk era of the late 1970s, such as the B52's, Boy George and Soft Cell. The era also paved the way for experimental electronic music, with artists such as Throbbing Gristle gaining popularity, whose lead singer Genesis P-Orridge frequently challenged gender norms and later adopted gender neutral pronouns.
But the most famous sound of the gay clubs in the 1970s was without doubt that of disco. Emerging in the early part of the decade from the smooth sounds of soul and funk, disco was unashamedly feel-good music which was embraced primarily by the black and LGBT+ communities. Apolitical yet defiantly proud, disco became the soundtrack to dancefloors across the world. Among the hundreds of disco anthems that were released, there were several big LGBT+ icons. Drag queen Sylvester was considered the Queen of Disco in San Francisco, and scored multiple hits across the globe with his hi-NRG sound. Italian synth legend Giorgio Moroder foreshadowed the 1980s with the majestic 'I Feel Love' for Donna Summer, while Gloria Gaynor's heartfelt disco ballad 'I Will Survive' became the biggest gay anthem since 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. Not bad for a track intended as a B-side!
Go forward to the 1980s, or have a look at our classic LGBT+ hits of the decade below...
Donna Summer - I Feel Love (1977)
Tom Robinson Band - Glad To Be Gay (1978)
Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive (1978)
Sylvester - You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (1978)
Sister Sledge - We Are Family (1979)
Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand - No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (1979)
Village People - In The Navy (1979)
Queen - Don't Stop Me Now (1979)
LGBT+ Hits of the 1970s
The Kinks - Lola (1970)
David Bowie - Starman (1971)
Labi Siffre - It Must Be Love (1971)
Shirley Bassey - Ballad of the Sad Young Men (1972)
Cast of Rocky Horror - Sweet Transvestite (1975)
Joan Armatrading - Love & Affection (1976)