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Grammy-winning lesbian singer-songwriters Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the Indigo Girls, have become one of the most successful folk/pop duos in recent history. Their success is in large measure due to the fierce loyalty of their fans, many of them lesbians.

The Atlanta-based duo's first album, the multi-platinum Indigo Girls (1989), included their best-known song, "Closer to Fine." Rites of Passage (1992) featured an impassioned cover of Mark Knopfler's "Romeo and Juliet." Sung by Ray in the voice of Juliet's lover, it quickly became a lesbian classic.

However it was not until Shaming of the Sun (1997) that an explicit statement of either's homosexuality appeared in Saliers' "It's Alright": ". . . and it's alright if you hate that way / hate me cause I'm different / you hate me cause I'm gay . . . ."

Over the years Indigo Girls have been an integral part of a strong musical scene in Atlanta that has included lesbian singer-songwriters Michelle Malone, Kristen Hall, and Wendy Bucklew.

About the same time that Indigo Girls were making their first record, Tracy Chapman came seemingly out of nowhere with her spare, haunting single "Fast Car" from her eponymous 1988 debut album. Along with Indigo Girls, Chapman led the pack of socially conscious singer-songwriters whose voices emerged in the late 1980s.

In the 1990s Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan's all-woman tour dubbed "Lesbopalooza" because of the number of lesbian acts and its popularity among lesbian fans (though there is a real Lesbopalooza music festival) provided a high-profile venue for Indigo Girls, Chapman, and other like-minded acts. Melissa Ferrick, disappear fear (founding member Sonia is now a solo act), Catie Curtis, Nedra Johnson, and Toshi Reagon continue in this folk genre.

Bisexual singer Ani DiFranco became a poster girl for dykes in the early 1990s with her shaved head, combat boots, and take-no-prisoners approach to her raw, honest lyrics about relationships and politics.

A self-described "freak," DiFranco sings about relationships with both men and women; her song "In or Out" defies the persistent desire to label her as either straight or gay: "some days the line I walk / turns out to be straight / other days the line tends to deviate / I've got no criteria for sex or race / I just want to hear your voice / I just want to see your face."

DiFranco has released all of her records on the label she founded in 1990, Righteous Babe Records, which is also home to eclectic lesbian and transgendered performance band Bitch and Animal.

In a genre all her own is Los Angeles-based "all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger," performance artist, and Tupperware lady Phranc. Her eclectic oeuvre includes the records--and personalities--of "Hot August Phranc," "Surferdyke Pal," "Cardboard Cobbler," and "Milkman." Not surprisingly, humor is an integral part of her work.


In the late 1950s, Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, brought a shockingly fey, shrieking style to rock and roll music with his smash hits "Lucille," "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," and "Good Golly Miss Molly." Richard, an androgynous black man sporting a pompadour hairstyle, eyeliner, and tight pants, was unlike anything American culture had ever seen, yet he never altered his outrageous style to suit prevailing tastes.

In 1996 Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2000 NBC produced The Little Richard Story, a drama based on his life. Despite the obvious, Richard has never explicitly come out as a homosexual.

In the early 1970s bisexual British rocker David Bowie, a pioneer of "glam rock," would eventually take androgyny to a new level in his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust.

Freddie Mercury was the flamboyantly gay lead singer of the British band Queen. Anchored by his soaring voice, Queen had a string of hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Another One Bites the Dust." Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, just one day after publicly announcing that he was gay and infected with the disease.

Rock and roll has produced several classic songs about transvestites. Bisexual Lou Reed's seminal "Walk on the Wild Side" (1972) is an ode to homosexuals, transvestites, and hustlers Holly, Candy, Little Joe, Sugar Plum Fairy, and Jackie. Like Bowie, Reed was part of the glam rock movement as a member of Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground.

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