Our community has always had an impact on popular culture

BY KRYSTA MCKENZIE, IMAGE BY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In our current day, it is quite common for singers and musicians to be open about their sexualities. However, it was not always this way, and it’s important to recognise that while it can feel amazing to see yourself represented in music, it’s certainly not something we are owed and it never has been. That being said, there are a great deal of Black musicians who were known to be queer, and it’s exciting to look back on how our community has influenced culture across history. Here are six Black influential musicians you might not have known were queer…

via GIPHY

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday was one of the most respected performers in jazz music from the 1930s up until her death in 1959. Some of her most popular songs include Strange Fruit, I’ll Be Seeing You and Blue Moon. She had a sweet romantic voice, and truly changed the way people saw jazz at the time. In the late 1940s Billie began to live openly as bisexual, and she dated many high profile men and women.

Whitney Houston

Whitney had one of the greatest voices that music has ever known. Her career began in the 1980s, and she quickly rose to international stardom with her self-titled debut album, and had a wildly successful career. In 2019, seven years after Whitney’s death, her best friend Robyn Crawford published a memoir which shared details about their secret relationship. They never labelled themselves, but they were certainly intimate.

Joséphine Baker

Joséphine became famous in France in the 1920s as an erotic dancer and performer. She became the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture with the 1927 silent film Siren Of The Tropics. A majorly influential and popular performer, she had relationships with women frequently — including Frida Kahlo, and French novelist Colette.

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith’s career began in the 1920s after she signed with Columbia Records. She was one of the most popular Blues singers of the 1930s, with her vocal talents causing her to influence many other performers at the time. She had several love affairs with women — mostly dancers in her shows

Frankie Knuckles

The openly gay DJ Frankie Knuckles, known as The Godfather Of House, had a big impact on the popularisation of house music in the early 1980s. Many people don’t know that house music has its origins in Black queer culture, but it’s important to recognise that especially because the genre is still so popular today.

The identities of these icons have often be erased, so take a moment to celebrate their impact today!

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