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Music: Popular  
 
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At the same time, however, hits such as Machine's "There But for the Grace of God (There Go I)" (1979) addressed issues of social exclusion and discrimination. The song includes the lines "now they gotta split 'cause the Bronx ain't fit / for a kid to grow up in / 'Let's find a place' they say / somewhere far away / with no blacks, no Jews, and no gays."

The Village People, a six-man band featuring the characters of gay male stereotypes or objects of desire--Native American, Biker, G.I., Construction Worker, Cop, and Cowboy--is probably the best known gay-themed band of the disco era. The group sold more than 65,000,000 records. Their hit anthems "Y.M.C.A." and "Macho Man" are tongue-in-cheek odes to male bonding.

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The Village People even starred in their own feature film, Can't Stop the Music (1980). Although founding member and original Biker-Leatherman Glenn Hughes died in 2001, the band continues to perform together.

As in rock, androgyny figured prominently in disco music. Among popular gay disco singers was bisexual Grace Jones, the Jamaican-born model, singer, and performance artist whose hits include "I Need a Man" (1977) and "Pull Up to the Bumper" (1981), a thinly veiled paean to anal sex.

One of the distinguishing aspects of Jones's persona was her androgynous image, which she explained: "I always liked to wear my hair very short, and my voice was deep. So even before creating that [androgynous image] for the public, I used to go in to buy bread and they would say 'Bon jour, monsieur,' and I would try and say 'No, I am a mademoiselle,' and forget it, they'd say 'Bon jour, monsieur' again. I think I have the features of an African man . . . . When I put a wig on with long hair, I look like a hooker or a drag queen. So I look actually more feminine when I'm dressed as a man."

Sylvester (James) was born in 1946 in Los Angeles. Encouraged early on in music by his aunt, a jazz singer, he became an openly gay, cross-dressing performer, beginning his career in San Francisco performing in "The Cockettes," an androgynous musical revue. His big hits were "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" (1978), which both Jimmy Somerville and comedian-singer Sandra Bernhard later remade, and "Dance (Disco Heat)" (1978).

Sylvester made his film debut opposite gay icon Bette Midler in The Rose, loosely based on the life and career of Janis Joplin. He died of AIDS in 1988.

When disco, or dance music, experienced a rebirth in the 1990s, campy, gorgeous gay drag queen RuPaul scored big with his 1992 hit "Supermodel" and went on to host The RuPaul Show on VH1. As the first "face" of M.A.C. Cosmetics, he helped raise more than $22,000,000 for AIDS research.

R&B, Hip Hop, and Reggae

Like Country and Western, R&B has remained a bastion of heterosexuality in popular music. As in country, scandals involving alleged homosexual activities have plagued some of R&B's biggest male singers.

In 1976 lead singer Teddy Pendergrass left the popular group Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes to pursue a solo career. By 1982, he was the reigning R&B sex symbol, giving women-only concerts for his adoring fans. That year, however, Pendergrass' career came to a screeching halt following an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and his passenger, a transsexual woman, dead.

Formerly a heartthrob, Pendergrass was unable to regain his popularity. His career could not transcend his paralysis or his companion's sexuality (and the implications of it for his own sexuality).

Years later, one-time recording artist and actor Eddie Murphy found himself in a similar situation when he was caught with a pre-operative transsexual prostitute in Hollywood; Murphy insisted he was merely giving her a ride. Murphy's singing career had already run its course on the limits of his talents; though he became the butt of late-night jokes, the incident did not seem to affect his acting success.

In the 1980s singer Luther Vandross seemed to take over Pendergrass' crown, only to be dogged from the beginning of his career about rumors of his own homosexuality, which he never acknowledged. However, a 1990s Ebony magazine feature article began with Vandross proudly showing the reporter his David Hockney drawing of a male nude. Informed readers might draw their own conclusions.

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