The Gay top 40 : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread

Over the rainbow and onto the charts For Pride Month, CL counts down the Gay Top 40


Gay people have always been around, of course. But gay culture was never as visible as it is today. And on the road to the mainstream, gay-identified music insinuated itself into the pop charts, often with few taking any note of its gay content or subtext.

But beyond the impact of gay people on popular music, significant as it has been, the reverse is also true. From classical to camp -- made by gays, straights, those in and out of the closet, men, women, drag queens, and everything in between -- music has been an integral part of the gay community's identity. It has delineated the struggles and triumphs, and helped to define the culture -- not only to the outside world, but also to itself. Whether it provides comfort to the loner or a soundtrack to celebrations, music is where the gay community can find its own unique story told.

Here, then, is our list of gay culture's 40 greatest songs. The big themes -- truth, identity (gender and otherwise), personal transformation, survival, comfort, inspiration and fun -- figure prominently. And so do songs associated with films, videos, the stage and the dancefloor. You'll also note the large contingent of those strong, sexy women who've become gay icons. As Madonna once said, "Music makes the people come together," so "let's take some time to celebrate."

40. "Relax," Frankie Goes to Hollywood -- Frankie ushered in the gay '80s video age. Songs like "Krisco Kisses" held nothing back, but it was this ode to holding back one's ejaculate where the group really made its mark.

39. "Losing My Religion," R.E.M. -- Religion and sexuality are prickly bedfellows, so when a gay man contemplates a loss of faith, eyebrows are likely to be raised. But surprisingly, like Michael Stipe's recent public coming-out, this song didn't cause much controversy.

38. "Tutti Frutti," Little Richard -- A pioneer of rock 'n' roll, R&B and camp? With song titles like "Tutti Frutti" accompanying his outrageous behavior, Georgia's own Little Richard gave gay audiences in the '50s an alternative in every sense of the word.

37. "Love Shack," the B-52's -- Pure fun and camp. This original, gay-inclusive band with Georgia roots has been putting a smile on our face and a beat in our step for years.

36. "Wig in a Box," John Cameron Mitchell -- The list's most recent entry, this bit of catchy fun from Hedwig and the Angry Inch captures the camp and frivolity of the stage show (and subsequent movie). Kudos to songwriter Steven Trask.

35. "1812 Overture," Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky -- The contribution of gays to popular music predates disco and Broadway tunes. Tchaikovsky introduced his artistry before anyone had a notion of gay culture.

34. "Could it be Magic?," Barry Manilow/Donna Summer/Take That -- Barry Manilow used to play piano for Bette Midler in gay bathhouses. Donna Summer covered it as a disco tune. Britain's Take That, one of the first big boy bands, updated it as a dance track. Three strikes and we're out.

33. "Go West," Village People/Pet Shop Boys -- Both the Village People and the Pet Shop Boys flirted with this tune's theme of escape to an idyllic, faraway place. A modern rewrite of "Over the Rainbow," the desire to reach that elusive place just beyond resonated with two gay-identified groups of different eras.

32. "That's What Friends Are For," Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight -- Spearheading efforts to raise money for the battle against AIDS, this adult foursome helped the public care about the disease a president was then ignoring. It also inspired singer Elton John in his untiring charity work.

31. "I'm Too Sexy," Right Said Fred -- Setting a new high in over-the-top male camp, these were not drag queens but, rather, full-on muscle men. Their talk of runways and sex appeal showed us how to have fun in all its gym-boy glory.

30. "Anything Goes," Cole Porter -- The contemplative gay-but-closeted composer was a pioneer of the Broadway musical and helped define the modern pop standard. The title alone served as a sign that our time was about to come.

29. "Finally," CeCe Peniston -- A dance song with such joy and passion, its inclusion in the film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert gained it a whole new audience. It was so beautifully set to drag, it became a classic all over again. (CeCe Peniston performs at the Atlanta Pride Festival, Sat., June 29, 9 p.m.)

28. "Philadelphia Freedom," Elton John -- About lesbian tennis champion Billie Jean King and her team. Neither John nor King was exactly out in the '70s, but they weren't entirely in either. The title says it all.

27. "Seasons of Love," Jonathan Larsen -- Broadway discovered a new voice briefly in the '90s with Larsen's musical, Rent. This simple, incredibly moving song kicks off the second act with themes of homophobia, AIDS, drugs and bohemian urban youth.

26. "A Little Respect," Erasure -- This duo's infectious beats and melodies resonate with both the club set and pop radio. Frontman Andy Bell has long been belting out the tunes while raising the profile for openly gay artists in the music business.

25. "Supermodel (You Better Work)," RuPaul -- The onetime Atlanta drag queen took the world by storm with this over-the-top ode to the newest, most glamorous type of celebrity. Who better than a Southern black man to introduce us to the glitz of models and queens?

24. "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand -- Barbra and Donna. Together. An early dance remix. You do the math.

23. "I'm Coming Out," Diana Ross -- Former lead singer of the Supremes, Oscar-nominated actress and perennial diva, Diana Ross hit with this song in the '80s. Whatever the lyric's original intent, the gay community ran with it, and the closet door has been all the more open ever since.

22. "Yes I Am," Melissa Etheridge -- The title track from an album closely associated with Etheridge's public coming out. She says the song isn't about busting down closet doors, but it wasn't only gays who heard her unapologetic declaration of sexual identity.

21. "Shame on You," Indigo Girls -- The Atlanta duo was banned from performances at U.S. high schools because of this one. Officials cited objections to a certain four-letter word, but it was rumored that their "alternative" lifestyle and a reference to "beautiful ladies" may have been the real reason.

20. "Somebody to Love," Queen -- Stunning operatic vocal arrangements may have dressed up this song, but its message was straightforward: "Find. Me. Somebody to love." The unprecedented tribute concert for Freddy Mercury, after his death from AIDS complications, featured artists as diverse as Guns N' Roses, Liza Minnelli and George Michael (Michael covered this song).

19. "Justify My Love," Madonna -- Through both the song and accompanying video, Madonna asked the world to open their minds. Pushing sexual boundaries and shattering taboos like no one before her, she could be on this list 20 times over.

18. "Glad To Be Gay," Tom Robinson -- No need for subtlety here. Brit Tom Robinson pulled no punches with this '70s anthem. Like the catchphrases 'I Am Woman' and 'Say it Loud, I'm Black and Proud,' this was about inclusion, representation and expressing what needed to be said.

17. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor -- Gays don't have an exclusive lock on this disco mainstay, but its themes of self respect, independence and overcoming adversity resonated nevertheless.

16. "Believe," Cher -- Not just another dance hit, but a true return (and umpteenth comeback) for this survivor. The star of TV, film, stage and recording -- not to mention mother of a lesbian activist -- has been kicking butt longer than almost anyone in the business.

15. "Time Warp," The Rocky Horror Picture Show cast -- Before RuPaul and Hedwig, Rocky Horror broke gay boundaries. While some of us still can't say for sure the difference between cross-dressers, transvestites and transsexuals, we should all be thankful for this warped musical.

14. "Walk on the Wild Side," Lou Reed -- Risque for its time, Reed's early-'70s hit left a lot to the imagination. But this tale of cross-dressing misfits and the generally disenfranchised -- with its sly reference to "giving head" -- was nothing if not vivid and colorful.

13. "Staying Alive," the Bee Gees -- The effect of this disco smash -- from the record-breaking Saturday Night Fever soundtrack -- was enormous, and its themes of survival proved prophetic. The song itself weathered the disco backlash and still sounds like a winner.

12. "Living After Midnight," Judas Priest -- Forget the cliches, this is neither a dance song nor a Broadway tune, and it's not sung by a diva. Instead, we have a leather-clad, studded heavy metal frontman singing about his adventures on nightlife's dark side. With metal being one of the last bastions to be touched publicly by gays, Rob Halford's coming out was loud, proud and shocking. But it confirmed again that gays truly come in all shapes and sizes.

11. "Smalltown Boy," Bronski Beat -- This song perfectly chronicled the journey of a young gay man coming out and leaving home -- a story never heard before in a Top 40 hit. Groundbreaking and daring, this haunting tale still resonates today.

10. "Karma Chameleon," Culture Club -- When the world met Boy George, themes of identity and gender roles weren't anything new. But mainstream pop had never seen anyone quite like him. This smash hit and accompanying video burst into living rooms across the globe.

9. "It's Raining Men," the Weather Girls -- If you've ever danced with abandon to this fun, frolicking camp classic, you know what we're talking about. Hallelujah! Is it half past 10 yet?

8. "Somewhere," Barbra Streisand -- The gay community identified with the tale of forbidden love, hope and yearning in West Side Story -- which is where this song originated. It became instant classic as part of the musical, but when Streisand covered it for her Broadway Album, she made it her own.

7. "YMCA," The Village People -- Do you snicker every time you see a wedding reception -- or stadium -- full of people dancing to this song? Just the thought of breeders twisting their bodies to this tribute to men meeting men at the gym is enough to justify its place on the list.

6. "Streets of Philadelphia," Bruce Springsteen -- Start with a straight rock star associated with cars, girls and the good old U.S.A., and add Philadelphia, one of the first Hollywood movies to deal with AIDS. The result is one of the most harrowing ballads ever included on a soundtrack. Addressing the struggles with illness, personal rights and freedoms, the Boss broke down barriers -- and won a deserved Academy Award along the way.

5. "I Am What I Am," La Cage aux Folles cast -- After the huge success of the French film La Cage aux Folles, Broadway turned it into a musical -- and the Great White Way was never gayer. This drag-queen staple will always be a poignant and dramatic reminder of the pride of coming out. Rarely has a song dealt so directly and openly with gay identity and struggle.

4. "Cabaret," Liza Minnelli -- "What good is sitting alone in your room?" This song, from the musical Cabaret, has so many elements that appeal to gay audiences: show-tune elements, exotic local, dark sexuality, Liza. All the stereotypes -- and so much more.

3. "Dancing Queen," ABBA -- How did two married (and later divorced) Swedish couples who sing English pop becoming gay music icons? With songs like this, of course. The music speaks for itself. Maybe the happiest dance song of all time.

2. "Over the Rainbow," Judy Garland -- It may be no coincidence that the rainbow is a symbol for the gay community. In The Wizard of Oz, Garland sings her heart out looking for the place where love exists for all. She was one of the earliest gay icons, and her death is closely associated with the Stonewall Riots, which launched the gay rights movement.

1. "Vogue," Madonna -- A drag- ball-inspired video with shapely male dancers sung by one of the gay community's most beloved icons. This is as gay as it gets.

-- (Algernon C. Braithewait III @ PTown.MA), June 30, 2002


creativel, 6/26/02

-- (Algernon C. Braiyhewait III @ Ptown.MA), June 30, 2002.

Here's another Cole Porter natural: It's All Right with Me.

Pretty good for heteros too.

-- (, June 30, 2002.


"Lola" by the Kinks doesn't make it? I would have thought it would have been a shoe in. Lou Reed did have a catchy little tune their.

Unk, I don't recall any of these being in your CD changer but maybe I'm mistaken.

-- Jack Booted Thug (, June 30, 2002.

A personal fave is Popsicle Toes.

-- (Algernon C. Braithewait @ Ptown.MA), June 30, 2002.

Michael Stipe is gay?! Never knew that one.

Speaking of Diana Ross, did anyone else see her grab Lil Kim's tit at the podium of one of the awards shows? MTV music awards I think. Shocked the hell out of everyone. hehe

-- US3 (me@myself. I), June 30, 2002.

Hmm, actually JBT, number 29 is in there now. Great tune btw. Louis Prima removed from the play list, "Pulse" a techno-dance compilation disk, added this weekend.

-- Uncle Deedah (, June 30, 2002.

who's keweler, n synch or backstreet boys?

-- (Pablo@Fire.Island), July 01, 2002.

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