I Was Born This Way Carl Bean (1977)

Q (UK) - - 50 Greatest Revolutionary Songs -

The story of I Was Born This Way, pop’s first outand-proud gay an­them, be­gan in 1971 with Bunny Jones, a straight, black, Chris­tian beau­ti­cian who wanted to write a song for her gay em­ploy­ees. Her cel­e­bra­tory cho­rus, “I’m happy, I’m care­free and I’m gay, I was born this way,” was as stir­ringly di­rect as James Brown’s dam-bust­ing Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud. In 1975, hav­ing fi­nally found some­one to write the mu­sic, Jones re­leased a ver­sion sung by new­comer Charles “Valentino” Har­ris on her own Gaiee Records. Mo­town snapped it up but it was too soon for DJs and au­di­ences to em­brace such an un­apolo­get­i­cally gay mes­sage and the sin­gle fiz­zled out. Mo­town tried again in 1977 with sharper lyrics, lush Philly disco pro­duc­tion and Carl Bean, a gospel singer who gave the song an ur­gent, tran­scen­dent en­ergy. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could sing about be­ing ho­mo­sex­ual,” he said later. Yet it, too, flopped. De­spite its mas­sive debt to gay cul­ture, disco couldn’t be ex­plicit and suc­cess­ful un­less, like the Vil­lage Peo­ple, it treated ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity like a camp punch­line. Bean quit the mu­sic in­dus­try to be­come a min­is­ter and ac­tivist. Over the years, how­ever, I Was Born This Way found its au­di­ence. It’s been end­lessly remixed, sam­pled, com­piled, played out, and even homaged by Lady Gaga’s own LGBT banger, Born This Way. Both trail­blaz­ing and time­less, it still con­veys the pow­er­ful emo­tions that Bean felt in the stu­dio: “joy, praise and free­dom”. DL

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