Denver musicians weigh in on Pride, being openly gay artists in 2012 and Freddie Mercury
The music industry is a business of characters and personalities. In addition to selling the product at hand, the music makers are also sold as pre-packaged personas: the druggy rebel, the cutesy boyfriend, the tortured genius. There's often a nucleus of truth to the persona, but large portions of it can be decorated and enhanced by the media. This situation reaches its unfortunate zenith when a musician's sexual orientation becomes the defining topic of their career.
At the same time, though, there is perhaps no profession that has lent itself to gay rights more effectively than that of the musician. Gay musicians such as the late Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Rob Halford and Joan Jett have been catalysts for affecting enormous social change. Yet the one thing all of those musicians have in common -- outside of being gay -- is that they spent large portions of their career in the closet. It even took later artists like Michael Stipe or Melissa Etheridge years before they would come out.
To come out as gay was once a career-ending move (remember how Liberace denied rumors until the end?) Whereas today, a dated-celebrity like Ricky Martin can revive his career by coming out, and acts like En Vogue, Tiffany and Debbie Gibson can once-again play to massive audiences thanks to the popularity of Pride Festivals.
In honor of this now institutional holiday, we sat down with some of Denver's most out-and-proud musicians, including Ian Cooke, Joshua Novak, Jen Korte, Israel Jimenez of PANAL S.A. DE C.V., Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp, ASiEL, Lauren Zwicky (aka DJ Narky Stares), Mariah Kohler, Magee Headley of the Haircut and Sarah Angela.
There were some who were reluctant to be included here, not wanting to be pigeonholed into having their music be merely a by-product of their sexuality. Attempting to have a career in a new age of hyper-tolerance, where you can be celebrated merely for the combination of being gay and making music, has made sincere musicians skittish. Understandably, they prefer to have their music judged on its own merit, as opposed to the sexuality of its creator. Even so, they understood the vital role music plays in affecting social change (as well as the undeniable connection between sex and music), and spoke candidly with us, discussing what it means to be an openly gay musician in 2012.