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Rock Music  
 
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Rock Music refers to an array of related musical styles that have come to dominate popular music in the West since about 1955. Originating in the United States, rock music was initially influenced by the black rhythm-and-blues (R&B) music of the American South.

Over the last five decades, rock music has been shaped by, and in turn has been an influential force on, a broad range of cultures and musical traditions, including country-and-western, folk, gospel, blues, electronic, dance, and the popular music of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The genre also encompasses a wide range of substyles, such as heavy metal, punk, alternative, worldbeat, rap, and techno.

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Rock music has become closely associated with freedom of expression, symbolized especially by the rebellious rock star. As such, rock music and musicians have helped to establish new fashions, forms of language, attitudes, and political views.

Surprisingly, however, homosexuality is still generally considered a stigma in the world of rock music. Despite the large number of gay and lesbian people working behind the scenes in the industry, mainstream gay and lesbian rock artists are often discouraged by their corporate record companies from being publicly open about their sexual orientation.

Little Richard to Wayne/Jayne County

In the late 1950s, Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman) brought a flamboyantly theatrical style to early rock music with his sequined vests, tight trousers, eyeliner, and pompadour hairstyle. His shouted vocals and frantic piano playing defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll and led to an uninterrupted run of smash hits--"Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Lucille," "Keep A Knockin," and "Good Golly Miss Molly." Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He has, however, never explicitly come out as gay.

Flamboyant theatrics reemerged in the early 1970s with the flourishing of glitter and glam rock, a fusion of feminized--or at best --images and virile rock anthems.

Glitter or glam rock groups include, most notably, the New York Dolls, T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, and Alice Cooper. Despite their image as sexual outlaws, these rock performers were, nevertheless, firmly ensconced in the world of heterosexuality. Even such rock luminaries as Lou Reed and David Bowie flirted with glam rock and cultivated fashionably gay or bisexual personae; they later married, however, and claimed they had been straight all along.

The one openly gay performer in the era of glam rock was Jobriath, born Bruce Wayne Campbell, in 1946. "I'm a true fairy," the renamed Jobriath Boone proclaimed to the press when his eponymous debut album was released in October, 1973. The release of that album was followed by a colossal media blitz. Full-page ads appeared in Vogue, Penthouse, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times, with an image of Jobriath as a discreetly nude statue crawling on smashed legs. The image was even reproduced on a Time's Square billboard and splashed across hundreds of New York City buses.

Jobriath's first album was quickly followed up with the release of a second one, Creatures of the Street, a mere six months later. Although the albums, especially the first, received a few respectable reviews, the extensive media hype did not help to sell records. Drug and alcohol addiction also hastened the rapid descent of Jobriath's music career; he was abandoned by his manager and record company halfway through his first U. S. tour.

Jobriath promptly announced his retirement from the music industry and moved to New York where he pursued an acting career with little success. Jobriath died of an AIDS-related illness in 1983.

Perhaps rock's most prominent performer is Wayne/Jayne County, born Wayne Rogers, in 1947. A performance artist as much as a rock musician, he began his career in the late 1960s as Wayne County in New York's underground theater world. In the early 1970s County formed his first band, Queen Elizabeth. The band recorded several music demos, most notably a song titled "Max's Kansas City," celebrating the legendary New York club of the same name where County had begun performing in drag. County subsequently formed another group, Wayne and the Back Street Boys, which became part of New York's burgeoning punk scene. The group's first album, recorded in 1976, was never released.

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