Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are known for their pro-equality anthem “Same Love,” but they’re not the only artists who have helped the LGBT movement. (x)
Madonna was right when she sang, “Music makes the people come together.” One of the ways artists bring people together through their music is by singing about causes they care about—gay rights is one of those causes. Many artists have helped raise awareness of LGBT issues through their work.
The following artists have done just that. Whether they’re an openly gay artist reflecting their own sexuality, or an ally who has been a vocal advocate for LGBT equality, here are the top 10 artists who have helped the LGBT movement.
10. Johnny Dangerous
Johnny Dangerous is an openly gay rapper whose outrageous image and lyrics set him apart from other LGBT artists. The gay hip-hop scene (“homo hop”) is one that often goes by unnoticed. This could be due to the extreme homophobia that still occupies a large part of the hip-hop culture. For an artist like Johnny Dangerous, it shows real courage to be so forward with his sexuality. He has released two albums and one EP, along with a bunch of dance remixes. He has also appeared in the documentary, “Pick Up The Mic.”
9. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain is known around the world as the lead singer of Nirvana. He left the world way too soon at the age of 27, but left behind a memorable legacy of music. Kurt was unlike any other rock musician dominating mainstream America before Nirvana burst on the scene. He used his platform to speak out against issues like misogyny and homophobia, which helped bring these issues to the attention of a new generation. In 1992, he did an interview with the gay news magazine, “The Advocate,” which showed even more support for the LGBT community.
Mika’s first album, 2007’s “Life In Cartoon Motion,” featured a song called “Billy Brown,” about a married man with children who leaves because he is in love with another man. His second album, “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” came out in 2009 and included a song called “Toy Boy.” The song talks about a young boy who is gay, and gets abused by his mother because of it. After years of speculation, Mika came out in an interview with Instinct Magazine in 2012. That same year, Mika’s third album, “The Origin of Love,” was released. Much of the album was inspired by Mika’s boyfriend.
7. Pansy Division
Growing tired of the dance music and show tunes he’d hear within the gay scene, Jon Ginoli began Pansy Division in the early 1990s. Out to break down barriers and defy stereotypes, Pansy Division became the first openly gay pop punk band. They wrote about the experience of being a gay male in an explicit and unapologetic way. They got mainstream attention when the opened for Green Day on their Dookie tour. The band still performs live to this day.
6. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera made a real statement of inner beauty and self-love when she released her single, “Beautiful,” in 2002. The video for which included portrayals of individuals who are treated as social outcasts, including a gay couple and transgender person. It earned Christina a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal of gay and transgender people. She also performed the song at the awards show.
5. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge came out publicly in January 1993. In September of that year, she released her third album, “Yes I Am.” The title is believed to be a reference to her coming out. The album spawned the hit single “Come To My Window.” Etheridge has been an activist for LGBT rights ever since. In 2006, she was awarded the Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the GLAAD Media Awards. The award honored openly LGBT media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equal rights.
4. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato has embarked on many philanthropic efforts, including activism for LGBT equality. In October 2010, Demi was the spokesperson for PACER, an anti-bullying organization. In May 2014, she was named the Grand Marshall for the LA Pride Parade, where she filmed her music video, “Really Don’t Care.” Demi was also the lead performer for NYC Pride week and has teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign to voice her support for marriage equality. “Demi Lovato is an amazing role model for today’s youth, both LGBT and non-LGBT, for her activism in the area of equality, positive messaging on body image, and level of openness with her struggles,” said NYC Pride spokesperson Patti Diluigi. “As a community, we’re fortunate to have an ally like Demi.”
3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have been taking the world by storm lately. Their singles “Can’t Hold Us” and “Thrift Shop” were big hits. However, the most memorable of these songs has been “Same Love,” which talks about LGBT equality. It was inspired by Macklemore’s uncle, John Haggerty, who appears on the single cover with his partner, Sean. Along with openly gay singer Mary Lambert, the duo performed the song frequently, including a landmark performance at the Grammys, which featured the weddings of 33 couples, both gay and straight, officiated by Queen Latifah with Madonna as the wedding singer. The song reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a BET Hip Hop Award nomination for Best Impact Track. Their success is nothing short of outstanding, as it is risky for two heterosexual men to be so vocal about LGBT equality in the world of hip-hop.
2. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson has often voiced her support for the LGBT community. On her 1997 album, “The Velvet Rope,” Janet included “Free Xone,” a song about discrimination and homophobia. She has also endorsed Gay Liberation Front, a gay rights roup, and appeared in a PSA in support of LGBT youth after the shooting of Lawrence King. In 2008, Janet was awarded the Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Media Awards. She has also openly supported The Trevor Project and is currently producing a documentary about the lives of transgender people titled, “Truth.”
In the 1980s, many people were using the AIDS epidemic as an excuse to perpetuate homophobia. Madonna was one of the first mainstream figures who spoke out in defense of the gay community at this time. She got involved in the fight against AIDS, encouraging research and the practice of safe sex. She brought vogueing—a style of dance started in New York’s gay club scene—to the mainstream and featured footage from a gay pride parade in her tour documentary, “Truth or Dare.” She also featured gay, lesbian, and bisexual affection in “Truth or Dare,” the “Justify My Love” video and her “Sex” book. This was still in the early 1990s, before it was a trendy thing for female pop stars to do. More recently, Madonna has spoken out against bullying, anti-gay laws in Malawi and Russia, and the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy. Madonna’s advocacy for the LGBT community was acknowledged when gay news magazine, “The Advocate,” named Madonna “the greatest gay icon” in 2012.
There you have it. From the eighties to nineties to now, LGBT representation in music has a long history. Whether they’re a pop icon or an unknown independent artist, these artists have used their position to help make progress for LGBT people. They have risked their own popularity to stand by what they believe in. And that is what makes these artists so admirable.
What other artists do you think have helped the gay rights movement? Do you have any favorite LGBT artists? Let us know in the comments below!