David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music

LGBT musicians have shaped the development of music over the last century, with a sexually progressive soundtrack in the background of the gay community’s struggle for acceptance. With the advent of recording technology, LGBT messages were for the first time brought to the forefront of popular music. David Bowie Made Me Gay is the first book to cover the breadth of history...

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Title:David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music
Author:Darryl W. Bullock
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David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music Reviews

  • Nicole Valentine

    Lucky enough to have this ARC handed to me in advance and I have to say it's the most comprehensive history of how the LGBT community has shaped the development of music over the last century. I came to this as a 70's and 80's music aficionado with a deep and abiding love for Bowie, and left with a huge breadth of knowledge and appreciation for so much more. Thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on the New York and London punk scene and was fascinated to learn of the late sixties/early 70's first brea

    Lucky enough to have this ARC handed to me in advance and I have to say it's the most comprehensive history of how the LGBT community has shaped the development of music over the last century. I came to this as a 70's and 80's music aficionado with a deep and abiding love for Bowie, and left with a huge breadth of knowledge and appreciation for so much more. Thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on the New York and London punk scene and was fascinated to learn of the late sixties/early 70's first breakout use of the Moog and how the LGBT community was involved. It's an absolute necessary purchase for any music lover.

  • Christopher Jones

    What an incredible read , informative in an interesting and upBEAT way, total page turning paradise........❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

    What an incredible read , informative in an interesting and upBEAT way, total page turning paradise........❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Joshua

    There is a pronounced lack of David Bowie in this book, but that doesn't lessen the quality or importance of this work. Darryl W. Bullock captured me with the title, and while I was hoping to read a bit about the Thin White Duke, the man who is quickly becoming my philosophical, intellectual, and sexual icon, the book was actually a fascinating history about Queer musicians starting with the rise of Jazz in the early 1900s and ending in our current period.

    There are a great many writers that have

    There is a pronounced lack of David Bowie in this book, but that doesn't lessen the quality or importance of this work. Darryl W. Bullock captured me with the title, and while I was hoping to read a bit about the Thin White Duke, the man who is quickly becoming my philosophical, intellectual, and sexual icon, the book was actually a fascinating history about Queer musicians starting with the rise of Jazz in the early 1900s and ending in our current period.

    There are a great many writers that have made a living writing about the importance and relevance of "representation" in the media, and so I want to avoid in this review anything that sounds like a soundbite. David Bowie Made Me Gay is relevant because it writes queer people into the culture by simply observing that we were here, that we have always been here, and that our sexuality is something that has been relevant to our success as artists. Bullock observes numerous instances of artists who were shoved back into the closet because of the repressive cultures they lived in, and the story of Gladys Bently is enough to bring the reader to tears. But what's most important about this book is that Bullock does not attempt to editorialize or dramatize tragedy or success. Bullock's approach in this book is that of a record keeper.

    David Bowie Made Me Gay finds queer personalities through the history of music simply to observe that they were there and that many of the most important, and sometimes even just the minor characters in the long history of the music industries and genres were queer. This goes a long way then to helping young queer readers who may be interested in finding queer icons in music. It helps readers, lovers of music period, who might happen to be queer to appreciate that they may not be so different sexually than an artist they love.

    David Bowie didn't make me gay personally, but as I'm reading more about the man's life, and listening to more of his music, I see how important it is to have such an icon, such a human being in your life as an example. There are plenty of examples of wonderful, tragic, contemptuous, and of course, gay people in this book and it's worth the reader's time to read through this wonderful chronicle.

    The queer community's received another in a long line of great books that reminds the reader of one important fact that so many people would prefer not to here: we've always been here.

  • Alex

    Exactly what I wanted from this book, and exactly the kind of book I've been searching for over the past few years. A comprehensive, well-written but not overwhelming history of queer music and musicians over the past 100 years. A western focus overall, mostly within the US/UK/the occasional Australian act, but delightfully does cover all the letters within LGBT. Some stuff I knew, a lot of stuff I didn't know! I loved reading this, was glad to take a copy out from the library, and hope to buy a

    Exactly what I wanted from this book, and exactly the kind of book I've been searching for over the past few years. A comprehensive, well-written but not overwhelming history of queer music and musicians over the past 100 years. A western focus overall, mostly within the US/UK/the occasional Australian act, but delightfully does cover all the letters within LGBT. Some stuff I knew, a lot of stuff I didn't know! I loved reading this, was glad to take a copy out from the library, and hope to buy a paper copy myself for my collection sometime soon.

  • Kevin

    Darryl W. Bullock's "David Bowie Made Me Gay" is a comprehensive, illuminating and entertaining celebration of LGBT singers, composers, producers and musicians who created music over the last century. Bullock enhances these mini-biographies by placing them in context with historic advancements and setbacks in the quest for gay civil rights.

    "Written histories have tended to straightwash the stories of the female pioneers of the blues," writes Bullock before correcting accounts of Bessie Smith, Ge

    Darryl W. Bullock's "David Bowie Made Me Gay" is a comprehensive, illuminating and entertaining celebration of LGBT singers, composers, producers and musicians who created music over the last century. Bullock enhances these mini-biographies by placing them in context with historic advancements and setbacks in the quest for gay civil rights.

    "Written histories have tended to straightwash the stories of the female pioneers of the blues," writes Bullock before correcting accounts of Bessie Smith, Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey and Billie Holiday in the 1920s and '30s. Bullock then profiles Noël Coward, Marlene Dietrich and Cole Porter. (Porter's 1941 song "Farming" is the first pop song to use the word "gay" to mean "homosexual.") The 1950s brings scandal sheets, arrests and lawsuits (amazingly, Liberace sued two newspapers who hinted he was gay and he won money from both publications).

    Things loosen up in the 1960s when Little Richard, Lesley Gore and Dusty Springfield came out to the press. And while the Who's Pete Townshend and the Kinks' Dave Davies didn't come out until the '90s, they were both writing popular queer-themed songs in the 1960s. Bullock also covers multiple musicians in chapters on specific genres like women's music (Janis Ian, Joan Armatrading, Holly Near), country (Ty Herndon, Chely Wright and Drake Jensen) and disco (Village People, Sylvester, Divine, Jacques Morali). Bullock's sensational reference guide uncovers a lot of fascinating and unfamiliar queer history and shares it in an entertaining and breezy style.

    This comprehensive, briskly paced and essential reference guide uncovers a century's worth of hidden history on LGBT music-makers.

  • John

    The first part of this book was really interesting and informative. I never knew there were so many GLBT artists from the 1920's-50's that had such influence on music and the struggles they went through. I enjoyed that part the best. The second half, mostly the 70's to today, was kind of a letdown. Most of the information was based on magazine articles or previously published source material, even though a large number of the people discussed are still alive today. I don't know if they just coul

    The first part of this book was really interesting and informative. I never knew there were so many GLBT artists from the 1920's-50's that had such influence on music and the struggles they went through. I enjoyed that part the best. The second half, mostly the 70's to today, was kind of a letdown. Most of the information was based on magazine articles or previously published source material, even though a large number of the people discussed are still alive today. I don't know if they just couldn't get interviews or if they didn't try, but I think they missed a big opportunity. And what they did have just wasn't new information, at least for me. Additionally, it was very focused on men, more so that I had hoped. All in all, it left me wanting.

  • Ed

    The first half of this book is excellent and eye opening. Learning about queer, black New Orleans 100 years ago was eye-opening, and learning about how Tony Jackson figures into Jelly Roll Morton’s history was fantastic. I knew of Ma Rainey, but learning about Ethel Waters and Lucille Bogan was fascinating, as was their shocking openness about their sexualities. I loved finding out about the popularity of the first modern drag queens in the 20s. The histories of the underground, camp recordings

    The first half of this book is excellent and eye opening. Learning about queer, black New Orleans 100 years ago was eye-opening, and learning about how Tony Jackson figures into Jelly Roll Morton’s history was fantastic. I knew of Ma Rainey, but learning about Ethel Waters and Lucille Bogan was fascinating, as was their shocking openness about their sexualities. I loved finding out about the popularity of the first modern drag queens in the 20s. The histories of the underground, camp recordings were fun, and I didn’t realize that some of my oldies favorites like Johnnie Ray were gay. There’s a lot of great “forgotten” history, even if I read patiently waiting for one of my favorites, Big Mama Thornton, to be mentioned, and she is not.

    But once this book hits the 1970s, some flaws are exposed. The organization of the book is by topics, not by chronological, and that isn’t the best. If you have any knowledge of modern gay artists, you’ll find glaring omissions. Two Lou Reed songs are mentioned, but neither of them is “Candy Says,” which seems like an obvious mention (even though Candy Darling is brought up). The chapter on lesbian singer-songwriters includes a few independent stalwarts, but he doesn’t mention any songs as a point-of-entry if you are curious. Melissa Etheridge isn’t mentioned until the last chapter and that is in the context of her song “Pulse” about the Pulse massacre. She was one of the most prominent out artists on American radio in the 90s.

    When he hits the 80s, I started to realize, not knowing the author at all, that he grew up in the UK. Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Soft Cell get a lot of attention, but I was stunned that the B52s and R.E.M. are only briefly brought up (and both within the context of AIDS; Ricky Wilson’s death for the Bs and Michael Stipe rumors for REM). He gives Jimmy Sommerville a lot of deserved space, and he talks about Pet Shop Boys’ early output. I was also disappointed at how briefly he goes over the “titans” of LGBT artists – if you are looking for deep dives into Bowie, Elton, and George Michael you are going to be disappointed. You will get an overview of the tabloid controversies they endured.

    I enjoyed this book and found a lot of new music I didn’t know about, which should be the goal of a book like that. But I can’t ignore how frustrated and confused I was about omissions, organization, and lack of depth about certain artists.

  • Mark Schlatter

    Overall, I found this a very disappointing read. I think the idea of the book (tracing the influences and performers of LBGT music) is great, and the introduction --- with a big focus on Bowie's importance --- makes an excellent case for the exploration. I learned a lot, including the facts that Johnny Mathis and Leslie Gore were gay, the existence of Camp Records and gay novelty LPs, the support of African American communities in the 1920's for LBGT performers, and the differences between the W

    Overall, I found this a very disappointing read. I think the idea of the book (tracing the influences and performers of LBGT music) is great, and the introduction --- with a big focus on Bowie's importance --- makes an excellent case for the exploration. I learned a lot, including the facts that Johnny Mathis and Leslie Gore were gay, the existence of Camp Records and gay novelty LPs, the support of African American communities in the 1920's for LBGT performers, and the differences between the Women's Music movement in the US (folk-based) and the UK (punk-based). There's a ton of information, much of it beyond what this straight reader knew about LBGT music.

    However, the organization is often horrible. The first chapters, which focus on just one or two performers, have a better focus, but later chapters suffer from information overload and no narrative structure to give the reader any guidance. A common practice by Bullock is to spend one to two paragraphs on a subject, talk about the performer's contributions, say where they are now, and then repeat with very little transition. (You can even find some sentences which appear to change focus midway through.) There's very little clear connective tissue and an overabundance of personalities. The result is often confusing and feels shallow. I'm sure there are some fascinating stories and thematic explorations that can be written about LGBT music, but this wasn't it for me.

  • Maria

    Let's get one thing straight - I learned a lot from this book and there are many interesting facets of information I did not know, and feel all the better for knowing. A tremendous amount of research obviously went into it, and that shows. My hat off to Darryl W. Bullock for that.

    That being said, this book felt very disorganized to me. The chapters are (mostly) chronologically ordered, which I appreciate, but I often feel the author jumps when telling stories and histories; from one musician, to

    Let's get one thing straight - I learned a lot from this book and there are many interesting facets of information I did not know, and feel all the better for knowing. A tremendous amount of research obviously went into it, and that shows. My hat off to Darryl W. Bullock for that.

    That being said, this book felt very disorganized to me. The chapters are (mostly) chronologically ordered, which I appreciate, but I often feel the author jumps when telling stories and histories; from one musician, to another, and then back to the first. This sometimes makes it hard to follow. In conjunction, the second half of the book feels like it happens too fast and doesn't include enough - there is not much mention of the Smiths, or of the Magnetic Fields (they get exactly one brief throw-in), or various other queer artists from the modern age who have/are changing the landscape. The main reason for the rating however, is that there is very little analysis of anything - actions, and especially lyrics. I feel the book would have benefited from a little more specificity in that regard, and perhaps that's what I was looking for and didn't get. It comes out predominantly in the passages on "Relax", but otherwise the book is fairly devoid of analysis.

    And, yes, despite the title, there is not a deep focus on David Bowie, but really that's beside the point. I'm still glad to have read this book since it clarified some things I knew, and taught me that which I did not.

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