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Merritt, Stephin (b. 1966?) and the Magnetic Fields  
 
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Yet in a 2000 interview with Barry Walters in the Advocate, Claudia Gonson negated such pronouncements by Merritt. She insisted that the sexual identities of the band members are intrinsic both to their work and to their audience. "I was straight when Stephin met me, and I'm gay now, which may have been influenced by the openness of hanging around with so many gay people," she reflected. "When we started Magnetic Fields we purposely had one lesbian, one gay guy, one straight woman, and one straight man. The audience could identify with whomever they wanted . . . ."

She added: "Regardless of what Stephin Merritt may say in an interview, his songs seem to be about loneliness, isolation, and the need to be recognized by another person. . . . I get tons of letters with people saying, 'As a young gay person who is developing an identity in the world, I would go to the Magnetic Fields for words of wisdom.'"

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Additionally, the playful attitude with which Merritt selects vocal performers to interpret his compositions disposes them to be interpreted as . Gonson's vocals on "Acoustic Guitar" render it a self-indulgent lesbian folk manifesto ("Acoustic guitar, you can have your own car / Just bring me back my girl"). Meanwhile, Merritt supplies his own tremulous baritone for "Underwear," an encomium to both the "pretty girls" and the "pretty boys" who don it. And on the Magnetic Fields' most recent album, i (2004), Merritt sings "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend," a song musically and even thematically redolent of New Order's early work.

In 2005 Merritt collaborated on an adaptation of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen with Chinese opera director Chen-Shi Zheng to be staged at Lincoln Center, and penned original songs inspired by the Lemony Snicket series of children's books. While critical reception of i was perhaps inevitably less overwhelmingly enthusiastic after the triumph of 69 Love Songs, Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields continue to enjoy considerable recognition and success.

Matthew D. Johnson

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Music: Popular

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had tremendous influence on popular music, though some musical genres have been more receptive to a homosexual presence than others.

arts >> Overview:  Rock Music

Although rock music has been closely associated with freedom of expression and rebelliousness, it has not been particularly welcoming to gay and lesbian performers.

literature >> Andersen, Hans Christian

Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen was probably bisexual in orientation, though he may well have remained a virgin.

arts >> Gold, Ari

Ari Gold, the award-winning recording artist, is unusual for his openness in an industry that has not exactly welcomed openly gay performers.

arts >> Halford, Rob

Rob Halford--dubbed "The Metal God" by fans and critics--is one of the most talented vocalists in heavy metal music and one of the few out artists in the genre.

arts >> Scissor Sisters

The American pop band Scissor Sisters was spawned in New York City's gay club scene; frequently addressing issues of transgressive sexuality, the band has cultivated a large glbtq fan base.

arts >> Wainwright, Rufus

Singer and songwriter Rufus Wainwright, dubbed the "thinking gay man's sex symbol," has built a successful career with witty lyrics and rich melodies.


    Bibliography
   

Bartlett, Thomas. "Irresistible Force." Salon.com (May 1, 2004): www.salon.com/ent/feature/2004/05/01/magnetic.

Cole, Rachel T. "A Conversation with Stephin Merritt." Useless 1.1 (Winter/Spring 2005): 20-23.

Unterberger, Richie. "The Magnetic Fields." Rock: The Rough Guide. Jonathan Buckley et al., eds. 2nd ed. London: Rough Guides, 1999. 601-602.

Walters, Barry. "Sweet Singin' Woman." The Advocate (May 9, 2000): www.advocate.com/html/stories/811/811_gonson.asp.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Johnson, Matthew D.  
    Entry Title: Merritt, Stephin (b. 1966?) and the Magnetic Fields  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated May 13, 2010  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/merritt_s.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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