Please visit my sites Queer Music Heritage and OutRadio

Friday, March 30, 2012

“Nights of Love on Lesbos”

“A Grecian beauty reveals her most secret thoughts and passions as she describes her many sensual nights of Lesbian love. Her budding desires awaken on the isle of Lesbos. Voluptuous pleasures she had never known transform her young body into trembling submission.”

So started out the LP liner notes on this 1962 recording, with the subtitle: “A Frankly Intimate Description of a Sensuous Young Girl’s Lesbian Desires.” It’s hard to tell what market the label was really after, perhaps whatever market would buy it, though the other albums listed on the back jacket cover certainly could not be confused with scholarly and refined. Still, the poetry, voiced by “Ilona,” is well done and indeed sensuous. 

The reading is from “Songs of Bilitis,” (1894) by French poet Pierre Louys. His Wiki bio indicates he was in elite circles, counting among his friends Andre Gide, Oscar Wilde, and Claude Debussy. Debussy composed a musical adaptation “Chansons de Bilitis” in 1897. The influence of his work lived well beyond his death, in 1925, as in 1955 the first lesbian organization in America, called itself Daughters of Bilitis.

Miscellaneous Lesbos:



Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Gentleman Doesn't Shave

The Club 82, also called the 82 Club, was the premier female impersonation club in NYC. Opened in 1953, and directed by famed star Kitt Russell, the club had an unusually long life, for that type of business, lasting into the ‘80’s, though in the ‘70’s it had transformed into a glam-rock bar, that featured such acts as the New York Dolls, and the Mumps. The photo of Jo Vaughn was not typical of the program shown below, but the caption caught my eye.

Frankie Quinn and Ty Bennett were among the lovelies in the cast

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gosh, I won….(plus, a surprise video)

I just have to share the news that this week it was announced that I was one of the winners of a major award, given by The Committee on LGBT History. I am honored and very, very pleased.

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From their announcement:
The Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLGBTH) proudly announce the winners of the Allan Bérubé Prize, which recognizes outstanding work in public or community-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) history. This award is given in even-numbered years, covering work completed during the previous two years. Scholarly committees determine winners after an open nomination process. The CLGBTH received 11 submissions for the Bérubé Prize, and that prize is underwritten by The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.

Allan Bérubé Prize 2012:
Out in Chicago, produced by Chicago History Museum, curated by Jill Thomas Austin and Jennifer Brier, staffed by Jessica Herczeg-Konecny, Emily H. Nordstrom, Daniel Oliver, Anne E. Parsons, Mark Ramirez, and Morgan W. Valenzuela.

The Queer Music Heritage Radio Show and Website, produced and staffed by JD Doyle, Houston, TX.

The Out in Chicago project team’s innovative installation for the Chicago History Museum worked extensively over a three-year period with community members to, as they describe it, “create an exhibition that recasts the city's LGBT and urban histories thematically.” It was open to the public from May 2011 to March 2012. Out in Chicago is a lively exhibit that centers the experiences of individuals—especially African Americans, Latinos, transgender people, and the leather community—through four sections: family, home, community, and activism. Extensive use of oral history helped the curatorial team to create an impressively inclusive portrayal of the city's many and varied queer peoples. New uses of archival and other objects, as well as innovative social media sources, also bring the exhibit to new audiences. Out in Chicago not only is one of the first exhibitions of its kind in a mainstream museum, but also showcases the possibilities of collaboration among institutions and community partners.

Queer Music Heritage is a labor of love of JD Doyle, who for over a decade has worked to “preserve and share the music of queer culture.” Doyle produces and hosts an engaging and informative monthly radio show and maintains an innovative user-friendly website that features a full audio archive of the program, transcribed interviews, and a wide range of visual materials. Among the many historical themes explored are the music of the “pansy craze” of the 1920s and 1930s, the Women’s Music Movement, and the music and politics of Queer Nation. Site content, impressive in its volume and scope, is organized to optimize access by researchers and educators. One noteworthy resource is “Queer Music History 101,” an exhaustively researched two-hour audio course covering the history of LGBT music from 1925-1986. Queer Music Heritage exposes diverse audiences to an important theme in LGBT history and encourages new research avenues.

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About the LGBTH:
The Committee on Lesbian and Gay History was founded in 1979 to promote the study of homosexuality in the past and present by facilitating communication among scholars in a variety of disciplines working on a variety of cultures. The name of the committee was changed to Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in January 2009.

About the Allan Bérubé Prize:
The Allan Bérubé Prize recognizes outstanding work in public or community-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer history. It is awarded in even-numbered years, covering works from the previous two years. Allan Bérubé (1946 – 2007) was the author of “Coming Out Under Fire,” and was a well-respected historian, activist, scholar, and a self-described “community-based” researcher.

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And this is a good time to share a video of my archives. It was filmed by Sean Kagalis when he and two other artists stayed at my house this month. Sean begged me to let him do the video, as he just wanted to share the experience of walking into that room.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Testimony - Stephen Schwartz & SFGMC

“Testimony” is a new song and video by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and I don’t know how you could pack any more talent into this production. Written Stephen Schwartz, in collaboration with Dan Savage, using words from the “It Gets Better” videos, conducted by Dr. Tim Seelig, and recorded and engineered by Leslie Ann Jones. While hearing it is beautiful, the joy is in watching the video, watching the faces conveying the emotions behind those words. It’s quite moving and they all deserve huge congratulations, and thanks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Garrin Benfield at SXSW

I first met Garrin Benfield in 2000, in NYC, at the GLAMA Awards, where he was nominated in the Out Recording category, for “What You’re Hiding,” from his debut CD “Living a Dream.” [ He and the Indigo Girls, Mary Gauthier and the Aluminum Group lost to Melissa Etheridge’s “Scarecrow.” ] To my regret, he was not a performer at the event, and I’ve spent the last 12 years gobbling up his five CD releases, but never having a chance to see him perform.

That changed last week when I drove (from Houston) to Austin for the day to go to the SXSW Bent Compass showcase. I was very pleased to finally be able to see Garrin do a live show, but I was NOWHERE prepared for my reaction. I was…okay, this is a trite expression…totally blown away by his performance. I mean, (I may gush a little) I have not been so impressed by a live performance in a long time. I knew that he was known for his intricate loop-driven guitar work, and I’ve seen a couple other artists dabble with this live. But Garrin has got to be the master. His singing and playing are mesmerizing. And, oh yeah, I got to hear him do my early favorite, “What You're Hiding.”

Latest CD: The Wave Organ Song (2011)

 Garrin with other performers at the Bent Compass event:
Above, Kiya Heartwood; below, Michelle Critin and Avi Wisnia

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Darren Ockert "The Rain from London" EP

Since I met Darren Ockert in 2006 his music has done nothing except impress me. I loved his debut album that year, “Anything Is Possible,” and the two songs from it that got remixes, and 2010’s single, “Celebrity du Jour.” But I’ve been wanting more. I guess I have to be patient, but help is on the way. Today Darren just released a new 4-track EP named “The Rain from London,” that has grabbed me just like the others. And I understand the next EP is already being mixed. By the way, the “Rain from London” connection is likely because Darren’s a Brit. But it’s okay, he’s living in Florida now.

 Below, Darren & I, in 2006, in The Village...yeah, I had my moustache then.

German Lesbian Bands

One of the segments of my current Queer Music Heritage show is “German GLBT Music,” and it’s a quick history, with all the songs but one sung in German. It was a fun show to prepare (and a lot of work) and one section I found especially interesting was on three German lesbian bands, and one solo artist:

The Flying Lesbians
Witch Is Witch
Carolina Brauckmann

The Flying Lesbians were (no surprise) the most out of these and the earliest, in 1975, and their album is the only one reissued on CD. It even contained a track sung in English.

The second band I list called themselves and their 1979 album Lysistrara, named after the Greek play by Aristophanes, Lysistrata, in which the women had the power. Monika Jaeckel, from The Flying Lesbians, and Barbara Bauermeister, from Lysistrara, got together in 1979 to form the duo Witch Is Witch, releasing their album by the same name. And Carolina Brauckmann was also direct in her 1982 LP, “Satirische Lesbengesänge,” or “Satirical Lesbian Songs.” A gallery of complete liner notes, some with translated lyrics, for these four albums is found on the following link.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bayard Rustin Sings

I want to join those honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bayard Rustin, and of course I’m doing it with music. It’s easy to use search engines to learn of the history of this remarkable leader, but not so easy to learn of this other side of him, the singer.

The 10” LP above was recorded in the 1940s when Rustin was secretary for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). You can read the full back cover notes on my website, but a section of it is below.

The cassette tape below was released in 1988, a year after his death, and the date of recording is not given, but it was obviously a live performance. One Wiki reference gives a recording year as 1972.

Both of these recordings are available on CD.

I want to recommend the video shown below, as a quick history lesson on the contributions of Bayard Rustin to the Civil Rights Movement.

Rustin’s influence goes on, and one example is the sampling of a speech by him, used to start off the hip hop track “We Out,” found on the 2004 CD “The Famous Outlaw League of Proto-Negroes,” by Deep Dickollective. That group, led by Juba Kalamka, was a project by a number of some of the most talented artists of that genre.

D/DC disbanded in 2008, but here is some summary data for the group.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Labi Siffre - Something Inside So Strong

Labi Siffre was born in London in 1945 and started his music career in the 1960’s, playing with a number of jazz and other groups, and in 1970 actually started recording his music. He had some success in the 70’s and early 80’s and then took a break for a while. In 1985 he saw a film about violence by whites against blacks in South Africa was inspired to write his masterpiece, “Something Inside So Strong.” It was intended as an anti-apartheid message, but it became a general anthem against oppression and bigotry. We are fortunate to be able to refer to a video of Siffre performing his classic live.


The song “Something Inside So Strong” has been covered by many artists, including Kenny Rogers, who made it the title track of an album. Another indication of the song’s power and reach is that it has been recorded by at least 20 gay & lesbian choruses from around the world, and performed live by many more. Giving just one example is the version by the Seattle Men’s Chorus, from 1996.



Siffre met his partner, Peter Lloyd, in 1964, and when the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 became effective in the UK in 2005, they became legally recognized partners.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Songs of a Lesbian Anarchist

That’s the subtitle of Kathy Fire’s 1978 LP “Songs of Fire.” And her album is filled with rage, including the closing track, “Mother Rage,” dealing with rape. 

Kathy Fire's activism began early and she founded a chapter of NOW in South New Jersey, which led to her meeting many feminists from Philadelphia, and she heard the call to move there. After that move she help found the group Dyketactics, which quickly caught attention when they staged a sit-in in 1975, taking over the City Council offices, and being forcibly ejected by the police. More protests followed and Fire began writing songs about these causes. She told an interviewer from the Philadelphia Gay News that she recorded a cassette and sent it to every single women’s record company. And the only company responding was a male-run company, Folkways, which had a policy of allowing artists free hand. By the end of the 1970’s, she and lover, poet Barbara Ruth, had moved to San Diego.

The song from the album of most interest to my queer website is “Crazy.”

It is fortunate for historians that Kathy Fire chose Folkways. Its founder, Moses Asch, built his label as the “voice of the people,” and that included gay & lesbian artists. The label released six albums of this genre:

Michael Cohen – What Did You Expect? (Folkways 8582, 1973)
Eric Bentley – Eric Bentley Sings the Queen of 42nd Street (Folkways 8581, 1974)
Michael Cohen – Some of Us Had to Live (Folkways 8583, 1976)
Kathy Fire – Songs of Fire (Folkways 8585, 1978)
Various Artists – Walls to Roses: Songs of Changing Men (Folkways 37587, 1979)
Various Artists -- Gay & Straight Together (Folkways 8580, 1980)

And from the Paredon Records label, also available is:
New Harmony Sisterhood Band - Ain't I A Woman? (Paredon 1038, 1977)

And in a wonderful endeavor, the Smithsonian Institute bought the entire Folkways catalog, and created the label Smithsonian Folkways, making all of it available for order online in CD or download format. 

 If anyone has recent information about Kathy Fire, please contact me.