Tuesday, July 31, 2012
A Post-WW II Non-Gay History of Popular Music
As one of the non-Californians on this blog—though my college girl friend graduated from Barstow High School and my wife's side of the family live in Albany,
First, there were the Fifties. Everyone was straight in the Fifties; gays hadn't been invented yet. Certainly, a gay man would not have been the soundtrack of choice for more First Experiences than anyone this side of Barry White. And certainly the people of that time would not have made a Greatest Hits collection by a gay man the best-selling album of that generation, it's longevity on the Billboard charts only supplanted years later but a bunch of English guys singing about their Brain Damage and a Total Eclipse).
And lesbians didn't exist at all. So we certainly would not let our children know about them, or have them appear on something called "Teen Age Music International"
They would have no immortality.**
And then there were the Sixties, where people discovered gays existed, but we try to forget about that. By the late Seventies and early 1980s, Americans hated gays again. Indeed, the only people they hated more were Iranians.
So the last thing they would ever have done is made a gay Iranian into a multi-platinum recording artist who still gets treated as if he were a G-d today. Most especially, we would never use his song at Manly Sporting Events.
Or headlining—and stealing the show—at the worldwide broadcast of a concert for hope, charity, and food.***
By the Nineties, of course, the rise of rap music to the point where white kids were listening to it—and especially "Gangsta Rap"—just reaffirmed that there is no place for gays—and especially not gay men—in music.
And certainly even if there were gay men allowed near rap, they would have no lasting influence.
I hope it's clear from the above that ignoring gays throughout history will not at all negatively impact one's understanding of American popular music.
Now, if you'll excuse me, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods is playing at Shakespeare in the Park this year, and I have to find a way to see it. Though I may first have to check what Alex Ross says about it in The New Yorker.
*Oops. Full disclosure: the relative who is generally finishing a stint of indentured servitude at UC
LJSD is currently out of the country.
**I would have written this entire post just to get this one in. It's still one of my favorite recordings, and I can't bloody find a copy either.
***Or on movie soundtracks as possibly the greatest karaoke song of all time, even down to its use of bismillah in the lyrics. Or as the creator of a love song the rest of the world likes much more than I do. Devotees are offered the full twenty-plus minutes here: