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Friday, April 26, 2013

Clause 28, in Song

The death of Margaret Thatcher (April 2003) was celebrated by some, enough so that it spawned a campaign to push onto the UK music download charts the 1939 song "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead." It narrowly missed, during the week of April 14, the #1 slot by only 5000 downloads. That's quite a feat for a 51 second song, coming of course from the movie "The Wizard of Oz." I think that campaign is hysterical. 

So all that brought back to mind one of the reasons for the hatred of many, Clause 28, also known as Section 28. It was passed under Thatcher's rule and it  vaguely outlawed the promotion of homosexuality, and I use the word 'vaguely' as it led to a lot of controversy. It meant schools could not discuss it and homosexuality was officially frowned on. The law was finally overturned in Scotland in 2000 and in the rest of Great Britain in 2003. It was quite complex and Wikipedia gives a long telling of it for those who want to dig deeper.

As this is a music blog I'm sharing how the law was dealt with, mostly right after it was passed, with by far the most famous treatment by Boy George, and "No Clause 28," from 1988. 

And you can find lots of remixes of the song to check out on YouTube. In 1989 the extremely gay-supportive UK band Chumbawamba did some tubthumping (jumped on the bandwagon) with their track "Smash Clause 28."

I do not usually portray the "opposing viewpoint," but I did find an anti-gay song by a UK punk band named Legion of St George. On their 2002 album "In the Footsteps of Heroes" was the song "Clause 28," defending the law. The law was in the news at that time, overturned the next year.

The video was on Youtube, but no longer so here are their lyrics.


And, I was kind of surprised to find a fairly new song mentioning Section 28, by UK singer Grace Petrie, from her 2010 CD "Tell Me a Story." She does so right off the bat in her song "Farewell to Welfare." Check out her website.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Jimmy Callaway Sings, and Tells Jokes

Jimmy Callaway was perhaps the most famous female impersonator at the Club My-O-My, near New Orleans, and ruled there from when it opened in 1946 until it burned down in 1972. And while it was not unusual in those days for female impersonators to really sing during their acts (instead of lip syncing for their lives), Callaway sang well enough to release an LP, in 1954, and a 45 rpm record. Note that the 45 had two different picture sleeves, one in drag and likely sold at the club, and another for more straight marketing. The upper left 45 starts with a full version of "Hello, Dolly," and the rest is comedy shtick.

And find a Lot more info on Jimmy Callaway.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Summer Osborne - Singer Extraordinaire


I recently got to see Summer Osborne perform at a house concert in Houston, and, yup, her sheer talent captured me. It appears she can sing about any style she chooses, and sing it well. She is quite prolific, releasing seven CDs since 2005 (and one on the way this summer), so I have been able to watch her growth as an artist. And she got my attention right away, by including a song titled "I'm a Lesbian" on her first release does get my notice, and I love it. 

But I didn't get to see her live until last month, and highly recommend you do not pass up an opportunity to do so. I'll give you one example. Now, I am kind of a purist when it comes to the Etta James recording of "At Last." I've often said there should be a law that no one else should be allowed to record it; Etta James owns that song. But I heard Summer do a version live and, geez, I went up afterwards and gushed that she needed to record it. The cliche is that she "made it her own," but here it fit. Below, is her video of "Just Be," from her 2011 disc "With Love."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Michael Callen: AIDS Activist

Today, April 11, is the anniversary of the birth of Michael Callen (April 11, 1955 - December 27, 1993) and I am usually shouting from the rooftops about his exquisite voice and the profound talent he shared with us in the songs he wrote and recorded. I will leave that for about three weeks from now, when my May radio show for Queer Music Heritage will be a very special edition, a Michael Callen Tribute.

As QMH is a music show I have not mentioned much about his AIDS activism, and it was considerable. Wikipedia sums it up nicely: "he was a significant architect of the response to the AIDS crisis in the United States." And he was an early responder. In 1983 he co-authored (with Richard Berkowitz and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend) a groundbreaking booklet called "How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach."

There is also a two-part interview video on Youtube with Callen and Berkowitz:

There is much more that you can find by searching Youtube and the internet.

He was also a frequent guest on television talk shows during those early years of the AIDS epidemic, and wrote numerous articles. Many of those articles by him, and others, were compiled in 1988 in the book "Surviving and Thriving with AIDS," and in 1990 when his own book, "Surviving AIDS" appeared.

Thanks to the Pacifica Archives, a 68-minute interview with Michael Callen, done by David Rothenberg in 1988, can be streamed in entirety at this link, and I much recommend it.

Also in 1988 Michael's talk before the National Conference on AIDS was captured and released on a cassette tape. That 62-minute talk can be heard here. Both of these interviews and talks provide an amazing insight into the thinking about AIDS in the late 1980's.

Below, AMFAR poster including Michael

And, well, you knew I could not do an entire blog entry without music....if you listen to the entire 1988 Conference tape, you can hear Michael near the end introduce the song "Healing Power of Love," although the song is not actually included on the recording. I've set up a two-minute excerpt with a short section from the beginning of the talk, and then the song intro, so you can hear it here. And then listen to this live video from 1989 of Michael singing the song. A special treat of the performance is to see co-writer Marsha Malamet at the piano.

Studio versions of this and many other of Michael's wonderful songs can be found on the 2-CD set, "Legacy," released posthumously in 1996. I consider this release essential for any LGBT music collection.