glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq

   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  glbtq Books
  Advertising Opportunities

  Press Kit

  Permissions & Licensing

  Terms of Service

  Privacy Policy




Special Features Index  

Spotlight Jazz and The Blues
  Jazz and the Blues, two of the most prominent musical forms to emerge from African-American roots, differ sharply in their relationships to glbtq performers. While jazz continues to be hostile toward glbtq musicians despite the significant contributions of several gay male jazz artists, the Blues has been more welcoming, particularly to lesbian and bisexual women.  
  Gladys Bentley Gladys Bentley (1907-1960) was an African-American Blues singer whose name became synonymous with "Hot Harlem" of the 1920s. Bentley openly flaunted her lesbianism in the 1920s and 1930s, but recanted in the 1950s in an attempt to salvage her career.  
  Lea DeLaria Lea DeLaria (b. 1958) has been a proudly out lesbian since the beginning of her career. As the daughter of a jazz musician, performing came naturally to the versatile DeLaria who has earned accolades for her talents as an actor, a singer, and a stand-up comic.  
  Frances Faye Frances Faye (1912-1991) was a gravel-voiced vocalist and pianist whose style and sound evolved over the years to include jazz, pop, Latin and rock influences. She warmly embraced her gay and lesbian audience and was openly bisexual at a time when few other performers dared to do the same.  
  Peggy Gilbert (1905-2007) was a virtuoso jazz musician and leader of a number of successful all-women bands. She tirelessly promoted other female musicians and demanded that they receive respect and opportunities.  
  Alberta Hunter Alberta Hunter (1895-1984), a Blues singer, lyricist, actress, and one of the top recording artists of the 1920s and 1930s, experienced a dramatic comeback in her old age.  
  Mabel Mercer Mabel Mercer (1900-1984) is one of the most respected singers of the mid-twentieth century. She was a most original stylist who became a beloved icon of gay New York in her later years  
  Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (1886-1939) was short, fat, and country to the core. Nicknamed "The Mother of the Blues," Rainey made no secret of her relationships with women.  
  Larry Rivers (1923-2002) is recognized as one of the pioneers of Pop Art, but he was also a jazz musician, teacher, performer, and writer. Though he did not identify as gay or bisexual and married twice, he had significant same-sex sexual experiences, most notably with poet Frank O'Hara (1926-1966).  
  Bessie Smith Bessie Smith (1894-1937), "Empress of the Blues," had a powerful voice and sophisticated musical talents. She conducted her life by her own set of rules and enjoyed affairs with both men and women.  
  Billy Strayhorn William "Billy" Strayhorn (1915-1967) was a major figure in American music who enriched jazz by investing it with complexly orchestrated form. The prolific composer, arranger, and performer was unusual for his refusal to hide his homosexuality.  
  Ethel Waters Ethel Waters (1896-1977) is perhaps best remembered as an actress who brought depth and acuity to fat "mammy" roles in plays and films. She began her entertainment career as "Sweet Mama Stringbean," a slender and glamorous blues singer whose musical talents made her a major nightclub star in 1920s Harlem.  


Sign up for glbtq's free newsletter to receive a spotlight on GLBT culture every month.

e-mail address

privacy policy
 unsubscribe 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 © 2002-2007, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.