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Mathis, Johnny (b. 1935)  
 
page: 1  2  

Mathis's albums of the 1960s and 1970s featured a variety of styles and material. On Olé (1965) he sang in Spanish and Portuguese. On albums such as The Long and Winding Road (1970), he covered the songs of other pop artists. He also recorded disco music. His albums sold millions of copies.

Singles by Mathis, on the other hand, tended not to make the pop charts. This changed in 1978, when his duet with Deniece Williams, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," became his first number-one hit since 1957. It also brought Mathis, whose fan base had previously been primarily white adults, to increased attention among African-American and younger audiences.

Sponsor Message.

Following the success of his duet with Williams, Mathis recorded duets with several other singers, including Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand, and Nana Mouskouri.

Mathis's enchanting love songs have always appealed to the romantic side of his fans. Their effect on listeners has given rise to certain waggish comments such as one in People magazine that "Mathis has often been blamed for the last 10 years of the baby boom." But his work appealed to gay and lesbian couples as well, many of whom may have intuited the singer's homosexuality.

Mathis's own love life, however, remained a mystery. He deflected interviewers' questions about his bachelor state until 1982, when he acknowledged his homosexuality in an interview in Us magazine. He spoke of his first love at the age of sixteen and said that being gay was "a way of life that [he had] grown accustomed to."

These disclosures had little if any effect on the public's perception of him; indeed, the public hardly seemed to notice them. In 1992 a group of gay activists attempted to "out" Mathis, only to discover that his sexual orientation was already on record.

Mathis claimed, however, that it should not have been. In 1993 he told an interviewer from the New York Times that he had intended the information that appeared in the article in Us to be off the record. He has declined to make any further comments about his sexuality.

Mathis continues his career as a highly successful vocalist. Indeed, he is one of the most gifted interpreters of romantic ballads in the history of American popular music. After more than four decades in show business, however, he no longer tours as he once did, though he still gives concerts. He has performed at various charity events and at the White House.

He even had the chance to participate in two Olympic games--as a singer.

Linda Rapp

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    Bibliography
   

Fitzpatrick, Laurie. "Johnny Mathis." Gay & Lesbian Biography. Michael J. Tyrkus, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. 311-313.

Gavin, James. "A Timeless Reminder of Back Seats in '57 Buicks." New York Times (December 19, 1993): Sec. 2, 36.

"Mathis, Johnny." The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Colin Larkin, ed. New York: Stockton Press, 1995. 4:2749-2750.

Petrucelli, Alan W. "Celebrity Q & A," Us 1 (June 22, 1982): 58-60.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Mathis, Johnny  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated June 25, 2008  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/mathis_j.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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