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Celebrating LGBTQ+ Icons of Music Through the Decades 🏳️‍🌈

Written by: Katie Curran

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and all month long we are celebrating! Journey with us through the decades as we celebrate Pride Month by honoring just a few of the trailblazing LGBTQ+ artists who fearlessly shaped music history throughout the decades. From blues to glam rock and beyond, their defiant voices harmonized with love, liberation, and resilience, leaving a lasting mark on the industry while providing a safe space for the future of music. 🌈

The 1960s: Lesley Gore

One of the biggest female pop stars of the 60s, Lesley Gore is famous for her hits “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me.” In 2005, she came out as lesbian in an interview with AfterEllen, revealing that she had been in a relationship since the 80s with her partner. Despite not publicly coming out until decades later, the fact that one of the biggest stars of the 60s identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community was huge for the music industry. Lesley Gore passed away in 2015, but her legacy is never forgotten. 🤍

The 1970s: Elton John

Elton John is one of the most famous musicians in all of history, and it’s no surprise why! His songs have stood the test of time, and he’s still performing them to this day. He has never been afraid to be himself, and we love him all the more because of it! Elton has been out since 1976 when he came out as bisexual in an interview with Rolling Stone. Years later, in another article with Rolling Stone, he spoke about being comfortable with his sexuality and started a relationship with his now-husband the next year. His coming out story was one that changed the game for rock artists, as he was one of the most famous artists of the era to publicly come out. Since then, he has been actively campaigning for equality in the genre and within the music community as a whole, even joining the fight against AIDS. ❤️

The 1980s: Freddie Mercury

The legendary Queen frontman was never ashamed to express himself, both onstage and off! His fashion sense changed the game for rock artists, as he took the stage in makeup as well as more androgynous styles! Throughout his career, he never shied away from discussions on sexuality, though he never publicly stated or confirmed his own. As one of the most famous figures in both the 70s and 80s, he is often remembered alongside Elton John as one of the trailblazers for LGBTQ+ artists in rock music. Tragically, he passed away in 1991 following a battle with AIDS-related pneumonia, but his artistry and persona paved the way for LGBTQ+ artists of the 21st century. ✨

The 1990s: George Michael

Having first rose to fame in the 80s as a member of the group Wham!, George Michael’s solo career flourished in the late 1980s and 1990s. With hits like “Faith” and “Freedom! ‘90,” he’s remembered as one of the biggest pop stars of the time. In 1999, Michael publicly came out as gay after having privately identified as bisexual for years. In an interview with The Advocate, he said “[f]alling in love with a man… ended his conflict over bisexuality.” Much like others on this list, the environment in which his career flourished was not necessarily the most supportive of his sexuality, yet he remained flawlessly authentic. Until the end of his life, he remained dedicated to the fight against AIDS, often collaborating with Elton John on benefit concerts and other fundraising events. 💜

The 2000s: Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile is one of the most talented women in country music today and has been a major catalyst for change within the genre. She has won nine Grammy awards from 25 nominations, and is a member of the supergroup The Highwomen! After coming out as a lesbian in 2002, she is one of the only publicly LGBTQ+ artists in country music. Given that country music is a historically conservative genre, not only is she a trailblazer for up-and-coming LGBTQ+ artists in the genre, but she is actively campaigning to make it a more welcoming place. In 2008, she launched the Looking Out Foundation to amplify LGTBQ+ voices and raise funds for causes and organizations that are often overlooked. A portion of profits from her tours are donated to organizations like the Trevor Project, and profits from her 2018 single “Party of One” with Sam Smith were donated to Children in Conflict. 🤩

The 2010s: FLETCHER

The newest artist on this list, FLETCHER has become an LGBTQ+ icon who has also taken the pop world by storm. With her song “Undrunk,” she burst onto the scene seven years ago and has remained there ever since. In 2017, she said in an interview with Billboard that she identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but she preferred not to label herself. Four years later, in 2021, she announced that she identified as queer. Alongside being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, FLETCHER also actively supports organizations such as GLAAD and The Trevor Project, which aim to help LGBTQ+ youth in the 21st century. In her music videos, she consistently includes LGBTQ+ representation. 🥰

Having these artists as icons of the LGBTQ+ community highlights the importance of LGBTQ+ artists in the music industry as a whole. For years, they’ve fought for not only acceptance of themselves but for equal representation of all gender identities and sexualities within music. We have loved hearing their stories, and want to wish everyone a very happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈

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