In this very special instalment of What’s Going On, I’ll be looking at five songs from the 1970s that deserve a spot on your Pride playlists. From disco divas to a religious Black gay activist to a cartoonish troupe of costumed male dancers, these songs are campy, uplifting, and all carry a sense of pride. Stay tuned for a look at 80s anthems coming soon.
Jobriath – Bruce Wayne Campbell, best known as Jobriath, was truly ahead of his time. The first openly gay rock act to be signed to a major record label, Jobriath was a trailblazer in many ways. With its not-so-subtle messages of sadomasochism, his single “Take Me I’m Yours” was seen as very controversial for the time and too hot for TV. The campy glam rock ditty definitely seems tame by today’s standards. As the debate over whether or not kink deserves a place at Pride events is currently a hot topic, it feels like “Take Me I’m Yours” is more timely now than ever before.
Listen to Jobriath’s 1973 single “Take Me I’m Yours” below.
Carl Bean – Originally released by Valentino in 1975, “I Was Born This Way” is a gay anthem that’s best known for activist and preacher Carl Bean’s 1977 rendition. The triumphant disco song was written with the intent to be a Black gay anthem. Lady Gaga would cite Carl Bean’s rendition of “I Was Born This Way” as the inspiration behind her 2011 mega-hit “Born This Way”, stating on social media: “Born This Way, my song and album, were inspired by Carl Bean, a gay, black, religious activist who preached, sung and wrote about being “Born This Way.” Notably his early work was in 1975, 11 years before I was born. Thank you for decades of relentless love, bravery, and a reason to sing.”
Listen to Carl Bean’s 1977 single “I Was Born This Way” below.
Sylvester – I don’t need to sell you on the greatness of Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” If you have a pulse or any interest in disco whatsoever, you likely already know it and love it. Sylvester’s gospel church-trained vocals earned him the moniker of “Queen of Disco” in the late-70s. With Sylvester backed by Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes, the singing alone on “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” will instantly put you in a state of euphoria but the production of Harvey Fuqua takes it to a whole other level. You can hear why the song has endured and continues to be a beloved Pride staple.
Listen to Sylvester’s 1978 single “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” below.
Village People – Now I could be cliche and throw “YMCA” on here but I won’t. Instead, let’s show some love to the far superior “Go West.” An obvious play on the phrase “Go West, young man”, the lead single from their fourth album is an instant earworm but didn’t achieve the same level of mainstream success as their hit from the previous year “YMCA.” There’s no easy-to-do dance to go along with this one but frontman Victor Willis (he wore the policeman costume) sounds fantastic on it. “Go West” would receive a new coat of paint in 1993 when the Pet Shop Boys covered it on their Very album.
Listen to Village People’s 1979 single “Go West” below.
Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer – Move over Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, we’re taking it all the way back to a mega-sized diva duet from 1979. The audio clash of the titans saw two of the biggest women in music at the time pumping up listeners over a pounding beat and encouraging them to kick their awful partners to the curb. Not just a bonafide disco classic, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough” topped the Billboard Hot 100. It would get an also iconic remake in 1994 courtesy of powerhouse dance music vocalists Kym Mazelle and Jocelyn Brown, produced by two-thirds of Stock Aitken Waterman.
Listen to Barba Streisand and Donna Summer’s 1979 single “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” below.