Country music's (not so secret) gay history
Country music star Chely Wright has come out as a lesbian on the cover of People magazine, part of a high-stakes media campaign that some feel may affect her marketability. Wright, best known for her 1999 hit "Single White Female," told People: "There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality. I wasn't going to be the first." (Watch an E! NEws report about Chely Wright's decision.) She needn't have feared. Here's a brief look at key gay milestones in country music:
Though it's unclear why, "Lavender Cowboy," a recording by Texas-born country singer Vernon Dalhart, is banned from the radio. Dalhart leaves the industry to become a security guard; is inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Lavender Country, fronted by openly gay Seattle-based Patrick Haggerty, releases America's first overtly gay-themed country album. The band pressed only 1,000 copies. Songs include "Back in the Closet Again" and "Come Out Singing." "For many," the album cover notes, "Lavender Country is a land of fear, confusion, and loneliness."
Some consider Pirates of the Mississippi's video "Feed Jake" the "first country music video with a gay theme." The clip tells the story of two men, one of whom dies, leaving the other to take care of his dog. Though the song features the lyric: "If you get an ear pierced, some will call you gay," the band's manager denies intentional gay undertones.
Garth Brooks wins a GLAAD Media Award for his 1992 song "We Shall Be Free," widely interpreted to have a gay-friendly theme, especially the line: "'Cause we shall be free / When we're free to love anyone we choose."
Musician Doug Stevens, of Doug Stevens & the Outband, forms the the Lesbian and Gay Country Music Association (LGCMA) to support gay country artists and promote country music in the gay community
Lavender Country is officially archived in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville
Country star Kenny Chesney and actress Renee Zellweger end their brief marriage, and Zellweger's citing "fraud" as the reason sparks rumors that Chesney might be gay. Chesney dismisses the gossip, telling Playboy, "I'm pretty confident in the fact that I love girls."
Country icons Willy Nelson and Dolly Parton write and record songs for major gay-themed movies—Nelson for Brokeback Mountain and Parton for Transameria. On Valentine's Day, Nelson also releases the love song "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other)".
May 4, 2010
Chely Wright officially declares that she's a lesbian, in a multimedia outing campaign orchestrated by publicist Howard Bragman. She's widely heralded as "the first major country music artist to come out."