glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Robinson, Tom (b. 1950)  

Rock musician Tom Robinson was embraced by the gay rights movement when he sang "Glad to Be Gay" in the late 1970s, but found himself the subject of controversy in the 1990s when he chose to live with a woman and become a father.

Robinson was born into a middle-class family in Cambridge, England on June 1, 1950. His first musical experience was as a choirboy.

Sponsor Message.

Robinson realized at the age of thirteen that he was gay, a frightening thought for the boy given that penalties in England for same-sex sexual activity included prison terms at the time. He had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide when he was sixteen and spent the next six years in a therapeutic community facility.

Robinson moved to London in 1973 and founded the trio Café Society. The group recorded an album, but it sold only six hundred copies.

In London Robinson became involved in the gay rights movement and in combating sexism and racism, causes that he continues to champion.

He left Café Society in 1976 and founded the more political Tom Robinson Band. The following year the group put out the hit single "2-4-6-8 Motorway," which alludes obliquely to a gay truck driver, and "Glad to Be Gay," which was embraced by gay audiences and banned by the BBC.

The band recorded an extremely successful first album, Power in the Darkness (1978), but the follow-up was a failure, and the group soon broke up.

Robinson organized a new band, Sector 27, that produced a well-reviewed but not particularly successful album. The band nevertheless received an enthusiastic reception at a Madison Square Garden concert with The Police. In short order, however, their management company went bankrupt, the band disintegrated, and Robinson suffered another nervous breakdown. Desolate and in debt, Robinson moved to Germany, cadging music work in East Berlin.

In 1982 Robinson penned the song "War Baby" about divisions between East and West. It spent nine weeks on the Top Ten charts in the United Kingdom and revived his career.

Upon returning to the British Isles, Robinson began performing in cabarets in Scotland. A producer from the BBC soon tapped him to become the host of a BBC World Service radio show. He continues to host music programs and occasional special features, including Surviving Suicide, which he wrote and presented in 1994.

Robinson, a longtime supporter of and former volunteer for London's Gay Switchboard help-line, was attending a 1982 benefit for the organization when he met the woman with whom he would eventually live and have two children.

In the mid-1990s, when Robinson became a father, the tabloid press had a field day, blaring the news with the headline "Britain's Number One Gay in Love with Girl Biker!" The gay press reviled him, but Robinson continued to identify as a gay man, telling an interviewer for the Manchester Guardian, "I have much more sympathy with bisexuals now, but I am absolutely not one." He added that "our enemies do not draw the distinction between gay and bisexual."

In a 1994 interview with the Boston Globe, Robinson asserted, "We've been fighting for tolerance for the last 20 years, and I've campaigned for people to be able to love whoever the hell they want. That's what we're talking about: tolerance and freedom and liberty—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So if somebody won't grant me the same tolerance I've been fighting for for them, hey, they've got a problem, not me."

Robinson has indeed been a strong advocate of liberty for all. He is a steadfast supporter of Amnesty International and Peter Tatchell's Outrage! human rights organization and a leader in the Rock Against Racism campaign in England.

Over his career Robinson has put out more than twenty albums either as a solo performer or as a member of a group. Among the best known are Love over Rage (1994) and Having It Both Ways (1996).

In addition to doing radio work, he continues to tour. He has moved to a more mellow sound, playing acoustic guitar in his concerts, and even includes some spoken-word pieces in his performances. He knows, however, that his fans turn out to hear his classic songs, and so his signature tune, "Glad to Be Gay," remains in his repertoire, although he updates it to reflect current events.

Linda Rapp

     

 
zoom in
Tom Robinson.
  
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about The Arts
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

Literature

 
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti


Byron, George Gordon, Lord
Byron, George Gordon, Lord


Modern Drama
Modern Drama


Camp
Camp


Selvadurai, Shyam


Musical Theater


African-American Literature: Gay Male
African-American Literature: Gay Male


Philippine Literature


St. Sebastian
St. Sebastian


Japanese Literature
Japanese Literature

 
 


   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  British Television

Until recently, British television embraced lesbians and gays as Them rather than Us, but a more diversified and nuanced approach to all kinds of sexuality is likely to be the case in the future.

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.

arts >> Bowie, David

David Bowie, also known as "The Dame," became a leading light in 1970s "glam rock," going on to enjoy international superstar status, but his relationship to queer culture is deeply contradictory.

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 >> Pansy Division

The first rock band entirely composed of gay musicians who sang frankly gay-themed tunes, Pansy Division have recently emerged with a more mature sound.

social sciences >> Tatchell, Peter

British activist Peter Tatchell, a vocal proponent of glbtq rights since the early 1970s, is controversial figure even within the glbtq community.


    Bibliography
   

Fanshawe, Simon. "The War Baby at Peace: He Was Glad to Be Gay, and He Became the Spokesperson for a Generation. Then It All Went Wrong and He Fled the Country with a Nervous Breakdown. Now, Tom Robinson Is Back." Manchester (England) Guardian (May 27, 1994): Features.

Fowler, Rebecca. "National Music Festival: 2-4-6-8, It's Never Too Late; He Went in and out of Fashion, but Tom Robinson Is Still Driven by Music." The Independent (London) (June 4, 1996): M2.

Graustark, Barbara. "Rock 'N' Wrath." Newsweek (July 30, 1978): 72.

Robinson, Tom. www.tomrobinson.com.

Sullivan, Jim. "Robinson Returns; After 15 Years, the Angry Young Revolutionary Has a New Record Deal and the Same High Ideals." Boston Globe (August 12, 1994): 61.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Robinson, Tom  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 22, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/robinson_t.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.