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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 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 of recorded music by and for the LGBT community and how those records influenced the evolution of the music we listen to today. David Bowie Made Me Gay uncovers the lives of the people who made these records, and offers a lively canter through the scarcely documented history of LGBT music-makers. Darryl W. Bullock discusses how gay, lesbian, and bisexual performers influenced Jazz and Blues; examines the almost forgotten Pansy Craze in the years between the two World Wars (when many LGBT performers were feted by royalty and Hollywood alike); chronicles the dark years after the depression when gay life was driven deep underground; celebrates the re-emergence of LGBT performers in the post-Stonewall years; and highlights today’s most legendary out-gay pop stars: Elton John, Boy George, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael. 


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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 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 of recorded music by and for the LGBT community and how those records influenced the evolution of the music we listen to today. David Bowie Made Me Gay uncovers the lives of the people who made these records, and offers a lively canter through the scarcely documented history of LGBT music-makers. Darryl W. Bullock discusses how gay, lesbian, and bisexual performers influenced Jazz and Blues; examines the almost forgotten Pansy Craze in the years between the two World Wars (when many LGBT performers were feted by royalty and Hollywood alike); chronicles the dark years after the depression when gay life was driven deep underground; celebrates the re-emergence of LGBT performers in the post-Stonewall years; and highlights today’s most legendary out-gay pop stars: Elton John, Boy George, Freddie Mercury, and George Michael. 

30 review for David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    NinjaMuse

    In brief: A history of the last century of LGBT music and musicians, with digressions into the wider context of queer history. Thoughts: I am deeply conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it’s an important document, in that I haven’t seen anyone tackle the topic and there’s a lot to be learned and a lot to be inspired by. On the other, Bullock is writing from an older and less than current understanding of some queer identities (see warnings below) and outright omits any queer identity that In brief: A history of the last century of LGBT music and musicians, with digressions into the wider context of queer history. Thoughts: I am deeply conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it’s an important document, in that I haven’t seen anyone tackle the topic and there’s a lot to be learned and a lot to be inspired by. On the other, Bullock is writing from an older and less than current understanding of some queer identities (see warnings below) and outright omits any queer identity that isn’t L, G, B, or T. On the third, the book frequently gets bogged down in details such as record sales; assumes nerd level knowledge by, say, mentioning genres without defining them or assuming you know that band; and is just poorly edited enough that it can be hard to track who’s doing what to who when. Oh, and if you’re looking for major icons like Bowie, Mercury, and John, they’re footnotes. I personally am okay with this because they have their own bios and the book largely exists to lift lesser known people into the limelight, but at the same time, I was disappointed that they featured as little as they did because they were still inspirations and important people and, well, Bowie is in the title. Bullock’s done a very good job of covering his topic, though. All the queer musicians I knew of were mentioned, from Billy Tipton to Sister Rosetta Tharpe to k.d. lang (but not MIKA, now that I think of it), and a lot of musicians I’d never heard of or never knew were queer also feature. He also lists songwriters and music executives and the whole gamut of genres, from jazz to rock to folk to country to rap to musicals, and also mentions songs with queer content that weren’t by queer artists. After a few chapters, I started looking up songs and musicians on Youtube and adding them to a playlist that I’m still working through a few weeks later. There’s some pretty good music out there. I also liked that he tells enough history of the wider queer community, the music industry, and the wider culture in general that you get context for how music and the world was changing. When did drag start and why? Why did disco become a gay thing? How did Stonewall and AIDS change things? Plus there’s discussion of lesbians and feminist folk festivals, of glam rock pairing gay flamboyance, of forgotten independent albums that have been rediscovered because of the internet, of the ups and downs in one’s ability to be out over time, of hooking up with people in bars. And I appreciate that even though Bullock is very anglophone-focused, he’s made at least some effort to mention musicians and music from outside the English-speaking world and outside Europe. There’s not much, granted, but it’s there. He’s also up front about how some genres or countries are so homophobic that you can’t get a sense of the queer music history there because everyone is still closeted. So, content-wise, apart from the infodump problem, I enjoyed this. I learned a lot and think it’s an important window into queer history that I’m kind of boggled has only been written now. As I said, there’s a lot to be inspired by, a lot of people being queer in their music and out despite the repercussions, and a definite sense that yes, queer people have always been here and better, they helped found whole genres. I’d certainly rec it to music lovers and people into queer history, even despite Bullock’s sporadically blinkered attitude towards identities and the other aforementioned problems, for that reason—but I cannot rec it without those warnings, which are also why this is not a 7.5 out of 10. To bear in mind: Bullock appears at times to understand bisexuality as an undecided, questioning, or hedging identity and is definitely okay with misgendering and deadnaming trans musicians only to mention partway through the section that actually they are a man/woman. Similarly, he uses “transsexual”, seems to believe that people who’ve undergone surgery are more trans than those who haven’t, and defines “asexual” as genderless and sexually harmless. On another note, because this is a history of queer people and queer culture, any and all traumas that the community has faced appear, ranging from slurs and homophobic statements to gay bashings and the AIDS crisis. There is also a chapter that prominently features TERF musicians and TERF-friendly feminist spaces, but which also makes it quietly clear they’re harmful and not okay. 6.5/10

  3. 5 out of 5

    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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kirby R.

    This book is simply fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen another book dedicated specifically to the place of LGBT+ people in the music industry, but not only was it brilliant, after having read "David Bowie Made Me Gay," it was obviously necessary. Bullock describes each musician in all of their often bittersweet glory and proves to represent a good number of identities with his assortment of selected performers, and while I was aware of a good few of them, I am very happy to say that I had b This book is simply fantastic. I don't think I've ever seen another book dedicated specifically to the place of LGBT+ people in the music industry, but not only was it brilliant, after having read "David Bowie Made Me Gay," it was obviously necessary. Bullock describes each musician in all of their often bittersweet glory and proves to represent a good number of identities with his assortment of selected performers, and while I was aware of a good few of them, I am very happy to say that I had by no means heard of the vast majority. This book is definitely a favorite.

  7. 4 out of 5

    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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ellie Mackin

    This book promised so much ... and delivered so little. For a start it's supposed to be about "LGBT music" when in fact 99 percent of the book is about gay men, there's one chapter on lesbian performers and a few scattered mentions of bi singers but unless you're male, gay, white and cis you're chances of being in this book are almost zero. On top of this, the author, who feels the need to mansplain gender dysphoria AND GETS IT WRONG! then proceeds to deadname and misgender the handful of trans This book promised so much ... and delivered so little. For a start it's supposed to be about "LGBT music" when in fact 99 percent of the book is about gay men, there's one chapter on lesbian performers and a few scattered mentions of bi singers but unless you're male, gay, white and cis you're chances of being in this book are almost zero. On top of this, the author, who feels the need to mansplain gender dysphoria AND GETS IT WRONG! then proceeds to deadname and misgender the handful of trans musicians he deigns to include, often stating that "he now lives as a woman" or "′deadname′ started using {new name}", showing that he knows nothing about trans** people AT ALL! Throw in some casual mentions of HIV, racism, domestic violence, physical abuse, rape, self harm, suicide, drug addiction and more homophobic terms than I've ever seen collected in one place and you start to wonder if the author really does support LGBT musicians, or is just using this book to make some money out of their experiences. Concluding with two whole chapters on 21st-century queer music where he makes no mention of era-defining LGBT artists like Tegan & Sara, Tracy Chapman, Lucy Spraggan or Against Me and you start to wonder if he knows anything at all about LGBT music because if so it isn't contained within these 320 timewasting pages.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This book was spectacularly badly written on both a micro and macro level, and failed to create any compelling narrative. While I did want to finish to learn about queer musicians in the last century (and believe me, Bullock hits seemingly ALL of them in confusing levels of detail), I wouldn't have been able to finish it if I hadn't needed something to read with one eye at work while still paying attention to everything else around me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Pretty interesting, but I was put off by the way the author insists on referring to trans musicians pre-coming out with their dead names and pronouns. Aside from implying that trans people are only their gender when they start presenting as such (which isn't true) it led to a few confusing sentences where he'd switch pronouns half-way through.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Jones

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

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zoë Holman

    First half was great, really interesting to learn about a lot of LGBT history I had no idea about. However second half was a little more chaotic and I found the deadnaming/misgendering of trans people throughout a little uncomfortable given its a book ABOUT their identities and art? All in all though a pretty comprehensive book for anyone interested in LGBT history and the music industry.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    This is a hard book to review. The first three quarters of the book are really good. I learnt a lot. The chapters which cover the first half of the 20th century are particularly great. However when Bullock hits the 80s, the book starts to get confusing. He jumps from artist to artist and back and forth in time, resulting in no real insight into any of the artists he mentions. I also noticed a few, not errors exactly, but quotes or events taken out of context and presented in a way which really di This is a hard book to review. The first three quarters of the book are really good. I learnt a lot. The chapters which cover the first half of the 20th century are particularly great. However when Bullock hits the 80s, the book starts to get confusing. He jumps from artist to artist and back and forth in time, resulting in no real insight into any of the artists he mentions. I also noticed a few, not errors exactly, but quotes or events taken out of context and presented in a way which really didn't convey the whole story or gave the wrong impression. The instances where I noticed this were around discussions of the bands Suede and Queen, both of whom I know quite a bit about. It left me wondering whether this was the case for other artists discussed that I know less about as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Summerbell

    Once in a rainbow moon, a book comes along that exceeds all the expectations you've ever had for any books. This is one of those, a remarkable elucidation of the history of LGBT popular music in the 20th and 21st centuries. One of the factors that makes it remarkable is that it deals with music for which publicity and sales tended to be suppressed. As one of half a dozen volunteer programmers for an LGBT community radio program in 1979-81 in Vancouver, Canada, I got in with people who were dedic Once in a rainbow moon, a book comes along that exceeds all the expectations you've ever had for any books. This is one of those, a remarkable elucidation of the history of LGBT popular music in the 20th and 21st centuries. One of the factors that makes it remarkable is that it deals with music for which publicity and sales tended to be suppressed. As one of half a dozen volunteer programmers for an LGBT community radio program in 1979-81 in Vancouver, Canada, I got in with people who were dedicated to collecting and playing LGBT music that was otherwise going unheard. Our most played disc was 'Caravan Tonight,' a 1974 recording on Mercury Records by Steven Grossman from New York. The gorgeous title track about an older guy sewing up the ripped pants of his soon-to-be-wandering younger boyfriend seemed like something everyone should want to hear - but bias had long since damped out its major-label release and its sales were minimal. Grossman gets a substantial write-up in Bullock's book, and his ups and downs as an artist are placed into a well described historical context. This book begins at the beginning of the 20th century, and features an almost academically detailed, but highly readable, chronicle of the career of, as writer Al Rose put it, "epileptic, alcoholic, homosexual Negro genius" Tony Jackson, a role model for his more famous friend Jelly Roll Morton. Unlikely that you would recognize Jackson's name, but you should, and you will, forever, after if you read his story in this book. The story then bridges to Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, and the classic 1920's black lesbian blues tracks we loved to play on our show, like Ma's 'Prove it On Me Blues' ("They say I do it, ain't nobody caught me..."). And onwards and upwards through the 20th century, featuring the two main categories of LGBT artists -- the flamboyantly famous and never-quite-out, like Cole Porter, Liberace, Little Richard and Canada's own Jackie Shane, and the plain-spokenly out and much ignored, like a whole bunch of people who made great music you've probably never heard about, most notably Blackberri. 'Women's music,' like the extraordinary 'The Changer and the Changed' by Cris Williamson (1975), is thoroughly covered. These records at least got distribution during their early years, thanks to a network of women's bookstores across North America: when I bought my copy in 1977, the woman at the counter berated me for effectively stealing it from a woman by using my privileged male university student money. It was never easy to get LGBT music, other than the closety mainstream stuff. I'm afraid we were a little purist on our show about people like David Bowie, who provided many dreamers with much fantasy about being openly gay, but couldn't bring themselves actually to sing the word. The mainstream artist who first did that in a sympathetic way - rampant heterosexual Rod Stewart in his 'The Killing of Georgie,' 1976 - gets full credit in Bullock's book. Luckily, Bullock, a full-out Bowie enthusiast, is unencumbered by purism that seemed so important to us at the time, and writes in long-time cringers like Freddie Mercury and Dan Hartman with full gusto. I think we can upgrade them to full LGBT heroes now, even if they had to be outed by AIDS. The range of Bullock's research is beyond impressive. He does a great job with the UK, the U.S., and Australia. He gets into Europe, covers LGBT efforts in Kenya, and looks into Russia. In Canada, he catches Michel Girouard and Réjean Tremblay, whose 1972 civil partnership was unknown to me, and also devotes considerable space to genius singer-songwriter Ferron (comparisons to Yeats are often made with her lyrics), from Vancouver. Tragically, he misses mah man Lewis Furey, whose song 'Hustler's Tango,' about a gay hustler working the streets of Montreal, was a radio hit locally in 1975, and whose lipstick-smeared album cover caught my eye and yielded my collection an astonishing classic that has also fascinated other LGBT musicians, like Tom Robinson. The other serious omission this book has from the 70s is the first disco hit ever to acknowledge same-sex relationships directly, Theo Vaness's "As Long As It's Love" (1979), which blew the Village People's macho pussyfooting out of the water. In North America, this hit from the Dutch music scene (https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shoes; Theo was actually Theo van Es from Zoeterwoude) was mostly just known to gay club DJs, but it made many eager liberationists like me run out and buy our own 12-inch 45 singles. Towards the end of the book, as we catch up to modern times, the LGBT music scene starts to get crowded, and Bullock's text becomes ever more telegraphic and cross-linked, since he just can't give everyone their full page any more. The brilliant comic duo Romanovsky and Phillips are reduced to an epithet, albeit complimentary, and lists run into lists as Bullock's paragraphing structure collapses - something I suspect was due to bad editing, not to any deficiency of his writing. Still, it can all be followed, though it would be something if Bullock were able to expand this book into the three-volume set it inherently wants to be. He may need a new editor, though: knuckle-rap anyone who can leave a sentence with a misplaced modifier like "Infamous for stalking the streets of New York with the words 'fuck off' written on her forehead, Lou Reed was an early fan..." The 'stalker' was Anohni of Antony and the Johnsons, not Lou as the sentence would have you read. There are a number of these infelicities. I only mention this because some other reviewers have criticized the book for its editorial imperfections, and I think these need to be isolated as a dross that doesn't besmirch the gold of the rest of the book in any way. May our beautiful, battered, banished and buried music all emerge to share its place in the sun next to the glittering images of Bowie, Mercury and Elton John. We owe tremendous gratitude to Darryl Bullock for this masterwork.

  15. 5 out of 5

    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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steve Porter

    The imagery of the Ziggy Stardust period and Bowie’s claim to be gay in a 1972 interview is oft-told, inspiring later stars like Boy George or Marc Almond. The title is perhaps another attempt to cash in on Bowie lore. But this is not another biography or memoir about David Bowie who is seldom mentioned beyond the introduction. Instead we get a fascinating and well researched journey through the history of LGBT music and culture. From New Orleans in the 1910s right through to recent years. DBMMG The imagery of the Ziggy Stardust period and Bowie’s claim to be gay in a 1972 interview is oft-told, inspiring later stars like Boy George or Marc Almond. The title is perhaps another attempt to cash in on Bowie lore. But this is not another biography or memoir about David Bowie who is seldom mentioned beyond the introduction. Instead we get a fascinating and well researched journey through the history of LGBT music and culture. From New Orleans in the 1910s right through to recent years. DBMMG covers the stories of household names like Billie Holiday, Dusty Springfield, Elton John or George Michael, to those unfamiliar to me like New Orleans Blues pioneer Tony Jackson or early genderqueer performer Gladys Bentley. Focusing primarily on American and British music, many genres are covered, including some not often associated with the LGBT scene, such as Country artists like Lavender Country or Drake Jensen. Gay and Black music strongly feature. Not only Disco but the aforementioned Blues and Jazz and even Hip Hop or Reggae. DBMMG notes many social and political changes that have taken place along the way. I would give it the full five stars given the coverage of many overlooked musical artists and the spaces and societies they inhabited. Both informative and frequently surprising.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    First off, the title of this book legit made me laugh out loud. I just thought: “If anyone had this magical power, it would totally be David Bowie.” Ok... so not the greatest book, despite my decently high rating. I’ve never felt the need to do much studying on music but the summer reading theme at the library is Music/Libraries Rock. I did find this book to be fairly amazing. (Ok... I know that I said it wasn’t that great, but follow me on this one. I’m going to explain how I found it amazing bu First off, the title of this book legit made me laugh out loud. I just thought: “If anyone had this magical power, it would totally be David Bowie.” Ok... so not the greatest book, despite my decently high rating. I’ve never felt the need to do much studying on music but the summer reading theme at the library is Music/Libraries Rock. I did find this book to be fairly amazing. (Ok... I know that I said it wasn’t that great, but follow me on this one. I’m going to explain how I found it amazing but not so great all at the same time, thus amounting to my four star rating.) 1) For a topic that I haven’t done much reading on, the book held my attention all the way through. 2) The research done was fantastic! Just so much & could have very easily been dry but was not. So, I have to respect that. 3) I had no idea that the LGBT community existed in any sense as far back as it did. I knew it existed in the 1970’s. (The Stonewall Riots happened.) Clearly it existed in the 1950’s due to the fact there were laws relating to homosexuality in both the UK & the US. (I’m assuming it was much more underground due to said laws.) But this book makes me think that there were stirrings all the way back to WWI & the 1920’s. I learned a lot in this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I genuinely wanted to really like this book, so I don't choose to rate it this low lightly. My main problem was with how all this information about LGBT performers and the various eras of music those performers came/come from was organized...or, rather, wasn't organized. This definitely could have used further editing in my opinion. It also bugged me that, while at least the performers' musical achievements would be highlighted...so would their scandals and the often tragic ways in which they di I genuinely wanted to really like this book, so I don't choose to rate it this low lightly. My main problem was with how all this information about LGBT performers and the various eras of music those performers came/come from was organized...or, rather, wasn't organized. This definitely could have used further editing in my opinion. It also bugged me that, while at least the performers' musical achievements would be highlighted...so would their scandals and the often tragic ways in which they died, almost morbidly and cynically so (for the latter, I think a sort of epilogue would have been best). However, there were parts I did enjoy/found interesting, so this book isn't a complete write-off for me, just a bit of a disappointment, as I think this is a great idea to make a nonfiction book from. I liked that musicians were discussed that I otherwise had never heard of before. But, there were also just an inexcusable number of typos, which is always a little pet peeve of mine. It's got a great flashy title, it definitely has that going for it!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shauna Stapleton

    The title of this book is someone misleading considering the distinct lack of Bowie, his name only mentioned during the introduction and in reference to other artists. Yet, despite the Thin White Duke’s omission the breadth of genres, artists and time periods Bullock manages to squeeze into the 320 pages is astounding. Even the most ardent historians of queer culture may not be aware of the important yet forgotten influence of the New Orleans jazz scene or Pansy Craze, chronicled alongside the m The title of this book is someone misleading considering the distinct lack of Bowie, his name only mentioned during the introduction and in reference to other artists. Yet, despite the Thin White Duke’s omission the breadth of genres, artists and time periods Bullock manages to squeeze into the 320 pages is astounding. Even the most ardent historians of queer culture may not be aware of the important yet forgotten influence of the New Orleans jazz scene or Pansy Craze, chronicled alongside the more predictable inclusions of the likes of the Village People and Queen. This book is by no means the definitive guide to LGBT music, for that would require volumes, instead it serves as a large scratch of the surface. A brilliant introduction to the incredible, complex and often tragic history of queer music, perfect for the fresh-out-of-the-closet teenager, or for a member of the community interested in their past.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    There was a LOT of information about LGBT music and artists in this book and that proved to be the best and also somehow the worst part. I was hoping this book would be a little more like Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop (which I loved), a book that focused on one theme in each chapter and highlighted a handle of artists to support the chapter’s theme. Instead, this book fired new artists and names at you every paragraph and sometimes every sentence. I just found it all to be a lot to kee There was a LOT of information about LGBT music and artists in this book and that proved to be the best and also somehow the worst part. I was hoping this book would be a little more like Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop (which I loved), a book that focused on one theme in each chapter and highlighted a handle of artists to support the chapter’s theme. Instead, this book fired new artists and names at you every paragraph and sometimes every sentence. I just found it all to be a lot to keep track of! I also have to admit that I found the last 50 pages the best because I finally recognized the artists being discussed. Not sure I will read this one again but happy to have it on my shelf.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Monical

    An attempt at extensive review of gay and lesbian contributions to popular music. The author is a bit UK centric, so some of the material is obscure to this US reader. I'm grateful that one chapter was about women's music in the 70's and 80's-- at least we got some text, if quite abbreviated. I don't necessarily agree with some of the author's conclusions about various artists, and the whole book is written in a rather breezy and poorly documented style. Personally, besides a bit more on women's An attempt at extensive review of gay and lesbian contributions to popular music. The author is a bit UK centric, so some of the material is obscure to this US reader. I'm grateful that one chapter was about women's music in the 70's and 80's-- at least we got some text, if quite abbreviated. I don't necessarily agree with some of the author's conclusions about various artists, and the whole book is written in a rather breezy and poorly documented style. Personally, besides a bit more on women's music, I wish we had heard more about disco and the impact of AIDS.Still, I'm glad that someone has made the attempt to document this history before it is totally lost.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Cleveland

    I tend not to read biographical novels unless they really peak my interest. I’m very interested in LGBTQ music/musicians so I had to pick this book up from the library. Off the bat, the title is misleading. There wasn’t much David Bowie in this book, which was very disappointing! Don’t mention a celebrity in the title unless they are a focal point! The book also constantly had portions of it drag on to the point of it being boring. It felt like the author just copied and pasted a lot of this inf I tend not to read biographical novels unless they really peak my interest. I’m very interested in LGBTQ music/musicians so I had to pick this book up from the library. Off the bat, the title is misleading. There wasn’t much David Bowie in this book, which was very disappointing! Don’t mention a celebrity in the title unless they are a focal point! The book also constantly had portions of it drag on to the point of it being boring. It felt like the author just copied and pasted a lot of this information and didn’t write it in a way to make it fascinating. Which is very important in a book like this. Disappointed, but not the worst biographical book I’ve read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Reeter

    Now, this was a fascinating read. My favorite part was about Lavender Country. I absolutely hate country music, but now knowing that there are queer country singers trying to work in an incredibly conservative genre, I feel like I need to go out there and support them. It was also interesting reading about how many historical musicians, like Tchaikovsky, were gay and whose love lives were straight washed, or flat out erased. Although, I love Tchaikovsky a whole lot less now after reading he even Now, this was a fascinating read. My favorite part was about Lavender Country. I absolutely hate country music, but now knowing that there are queer country singers trying to work in an incredibly conservative genre, I feel like I need to go out there and support them. It was also interesting reading about how many historical musicians, like Tchaikovsky, were gay and whose love lives were straight washed, or flat out erased. Although, I love Tchaikovsky a whole lot less now after reading he even had a relationship with his nephew. Red flags, honestly. I highly recommend this book, especially if you're interested in queer history and culture.

  26. 4 out of 5

    m. molony

    Informative. However due to the insane lack of sensitivity around language the author used with talking about trans artists (constant deadnaming, back and forth pronouns, and a few uses of “transgendered”) I can’t really recommend this book to anyone without a grain of salt. Just another instance of gay cis men not having a clue about how to treat and respect trans people. Also, this book read like a run on sentence from hell. Also, David Bowie statutory raped someone. Not so much as a mention o Informative. However due to the insane lack of sensitivity around language the author used with talking about trans artists (constant deadnaming, back and forth pronouns, and a few uses of “transgendered”) I can’t really recommend this book to anyone without a grain of salt. Just another instance of gay cis men not having a clue about how to treat and respect trans people. Also, this book read like a run on sentence from hell. Also, David Bowie statutory raped someone. Not so much as a mention of that, only a glorifying title slot.

  27. 5 out of 5

    zigg

    The subject matter is important and there’s a lot of stories to tell, but I had a hard time following Bullock through his telling. There were no new revelations in stories I already knew, and many stories I did not felt unfocused, dropping so many names I routinely had to flip back to figure out where someone who was only being mononymously referred-to had been introduced. There’s a lot of interesting queer history in here, though, when I could tease it out. I feel like I would have got a lot mor The subject matter is important and there’s a lot of stories to tell, but I had a hard time following Bullock through his telling. There were no new revelations in stories I already knew, and many stories I did not felt unfocused, dropping so many names I routinely had to flip back to figure out where someone who was only being mononymously referred-to had been introduced. There’s a lot of interesting queer history in here, though, when I could tease it out. I feel like I would have got a lot more out of a book that had been structured better.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This is not always an easy book to read. It chronicles a history of the oppression of LGBTQ artists alongside the history of their creativity, contribution and activism. Nevertheless, it was a story worth telling and worth hearing. I was particularly struck, when the book reached the era of pop music which is most familiar to me and was influential in my life, how many artists I had known and appreciated without knowing, or in some cases barely acknowledging, they were LGBTQ or really understand This is not always an easy book to read. It chronicles a history of the oppression of LGBTQ artists alongside the history of their creativity, contribution and activism. Nevertheless, it was a story worth telling and worth hearing. I was particularly struck, when the book reached the era of pop music which is most familiar to me and was influential in my life, how many artists I had known and appreciated without knowing, or in some cases barely acknowledging, they were LGBTQ or really understanding what that meant for them at the time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jose Chang

    Wow, i just finished this book that I started last year. Incredibly fascinating and wonderful to know that their is a vast chronology of LGBTQ+ musicians in the Western musical modern cannon. It was a delight to read about more than "gay" mainstream artists or those that pander to a mainstream audience. I will say, at times, the book read like a text book and thus visiting and revisiting the book was a tendency at times. Although it could have also been life interrupting -- who knows! I would re Wow, i just finished this book that I started last year. Incredibly fascinating and wonderful to know that their is a vast chronology of LGBTQ+ musicians in the Western musical modern cannon. It was a delight to read about more than "gay" mainstream artists or those that pander to a mainstream audience. I will say, at times, the book read like a text book and thus visiting and revisiting the book was a tendency at times. Although it could have also been life interrupting -- who knows! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history, particularly LGBTQ+ and Western music.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Trent

    A breezy survey of LGBT musicians from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. Because some of the information was new to me and interesting, I kept reading. But it was a slog, since there is little in the way of anaylsis or perspective or unifying themes--at times it's like reading a laundry list (this person was a queer musician; that person was, here's another who was), with all the superficiality of a (very long) People magazine profile.

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