words by: Sam Rosen
Hey hey hey! My name is Sam Rosen and I am the (former) Communications Chair for the Queer and Trans Graduate Student Union (QTGSU) here at UCSB! I am so honored that KCSB reached out to our organization and gave us the platform to share our Pride playlist with y’all! I wanted to highlight some classic queer anthems and discuss their cultural significance! I love oldies and honestly I think it’s important for our new generation of queer folk to know some classic queer anthems and the history of what made them so big. So, make sure to take a listen and let me tell you about some of my picks.
“Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland
Kicking off this playlist, we have a true classic: “Over the Rainbow”. Featured in the 1939 film the Wizard of Oz, both the song and movie have been classics in the queer community. Queer folk resonated with the queer subtext of both the movie and its source material, so much so that queer folk would refer to one another as a “Friend of Dorothy” in public. Since, you know, letting people know you were queer back felt like a death sentence for a lot of queer folk. Queer slang was one way that queer folk could identify and talk with each other in public. Ever wonder why gay men in particular like to refer to everyone and everything as “she”? Well, if you wanted to tell your queer friends about the boy you had over the night before, you couldn’t just say he was him, you had to be clever and pretend you had a girl over. Classic heteronormativity but again, it just goes to show the importance of queer vernacular. Judy Garland was also heralded as a queer icon by many and was never bothered by her large queer following. Both Judy and the Wizard of Oz have played a significant role in queer culture and I hope that this little entry inspires you to read more on the queer legacy of Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz in general.
“Go West” by The Village People
Listen…how are you going to sit here and tell me you don’t know The Village People? From their album of the same name, “Go West” is a song about queer hope. You see, San Francisco was well known for being a queer haven. I mean, it’s still a really well known queer haven today but like I’m trying to set a scene here just roll with it. San Francisco’s reputation made it an uber desirable place to live for queer folk since being outwardly queer during the late 70s was, as historians have described, “not acceptable”. “Go West” describes the journey from the East to the West, in hopes of finding a better life, even describing the West as “the promised land”. While The Village People have multitudes of other queer hits that I’ve also included on this playlist, “Go West” has always been a queer anthem that resonated with me and I hope resonates with you.
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
This song is like, the ultimate queer anthem sleeper hit. “I Will Survive” was actually the B-side to Gloria Gaynor’s single album, “Substitute”, but became a HUGE success among queer folk in the 1980s. With its message of perseverance and overcoming the odds, this song was a beacon of hope to a frightened queer community during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. I would honestly consider this song to be one of the most powerful queer anthems of all time due to its historical significance and also how even today, the song’s theme of resilience still resonates with queer folk today. This song will live on forever in the queer anthem hall of fame and we as a community cannot forget its importance during the AIDS crisis.
“I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
Diana Ross the boss! How the heck was I going to make a queer oldies playlist without including the legend, the Queen of the Supremes herself, Miss Diana Ross. This song was written as a love letter to Diana Ross and her queer following since, as we know, coming out is what one does to let people know that they’re switching to oat milk, wearing Doc Martens and getting a stick and poke from their roommate. Nile Rodgers was actually the one who wrote this song for Diana Ross after seeing multiple Diana Ross impersonators at a gay club. My favorite fun fact about this song is that when Diana Ross learned that “coming out” was like, slang for saying “I’m gay”, she ran out of the recording studio in tears because she thought Nile Rodgers was trying to make people think she was gay. They had to convince her that people would not think she was gay and she eventually did record the song, but you already knew that.
“Vogue” by Madonna
I was about to finish writing but I have to talk about this song. Madonna is a queer mother, like, she can do no wrong. She has stood with the queer community since forever and we need to really appreciate the fact that such a mega star was standing with the queer community before it was a cool and profitable thing to do. “Vogue” is Madonna’s love letter to queers as it exposed the whole nation and the WORLD to queer culture. For those unaware, “vogueing” is a dance style originating in Black Harlem during the 1960s and was pioneered by the queer Black and Latino communities. The style is characterized by striking poses like a model would do in a photo shoot while also using your dance moves to insult, or throw shade, at your opponent. If you want a visual example, watch this video featuring Willi Ninja, who is one of the best vogue dancers EVER in addition to being the house mother of the House of Ninja. Madonna’s video brought queer culture into the mainstream and even featured some of the house children in Black Harlem. Madonna’s dedication to the queer community through both her music and personal career make this song deserving of a spot on our Pride playlist so y’all better learn how to vogue properly this summer! There is so much more I could say about all of these songs, but I really wanted to highlight some of my favorites and songs with some pretty big impact within the queer community. As I was writing this blog post, I realized that one theme connected a lot of these songs: resilience. We are living in a time where we are watching queer rights being stripped away, be it drag bans or bills about public bathrooms, it really is a scary time to be queer. Just remember, our queer elders went through similar times and came out the otherside. Perhaps by looking back on these songs of resilience, we can find our own and tell ourselves: “I Will Survive”.
Anyways, on that note! Toodles,