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Jobriath & Anohni : 25 of music’s most underrated trailblazers across the queer spectrum


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Jobriath

While Britain had David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Bryan Ferry all performing glamorous, cosmic rock songs, the United States was searching for its own. Enter impresario Jerry Brandt (who founded New York’s Electric Circus nightclub and managed Carly Simon’s early career), who discovered an unknown named Jobriath Boone. Born in 1946 as Bruce Wayne Campbell, the self-made American sang “Sodomy” in the original late-Sixties L.A. production of Hair before reinventing himself. Jobriath was quickly signed to a record contract in 1972 with Elektra (rumored to be worth $500,000) and an ambitious advertising campaign began, with full-page ads in Vogue, Penthouse and Rolling Stone. “Jobriath is going to be the biggest artist in the world. He is a singer, dancer, woman, man. He has the glamour of Garbo. He is beautiful,” Brandt explained to Melody Maker, then telling Rolling Stone: “The kids will emulate Jobriath because he cares about his body, his mind, his responsibility to the public as a leader, as a force, as a manipulator of beauty and art.”

The 11 songs on his debut album included his single “I’m a Man,” the S&M ballad “Take Me I’m Yours” and “Blow Away” – with Stephen Holden writing in his review for RS that Jobriath’s voice was “uncannily reminiscent of Mick Jagger’s.” The fact that he did it all while being completely open about his sexuality – calling himself “rock’s truest fairy” – is astounding and, for a brief, shining moment in 1974, Jobriath became the most visible gay man in popular music. Then, just as suddenly, he was rejected by media and audiences – a Nassau Coliseum concert had crowds throwing trash and reportedly yelling “faggot” – so after Elektra push out his second (and final) album, Creatures of the Street, he vanished and became a mostly forgotten footnote in music history, a cautionary tale of the evils of the music hype machine. But his legend was revived decades later, having influenced everyone from Morrissey and Jayne County to Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters to Will Sheff of Okkervil River. Jerry Portwood

Anohni

As the lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons (the group’s name being a reference to transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson), Anohni created an enthralling and distinctive experimental pop sound that earned the group of Mercury Prize in 2005 for their second album, I Am a Bird Now, which included the single, “Hope There’s Someone,” which was later covered by Avicii. Outside of the group, Anhoni co-wrote and sang on Hercules & Love Affair’s biggest hit, “Blind,” while Antony and the Johnsons collaborated with everyone from Lou Reed to Bjork and became soundtrack fodder with songs heard in V for Vendetta, Sons of Anarchy and the Wachowski siblings’ Sense8 TV series. Since coming out publicly as transgender, Anohni released the critically acclaimed electropop protest album, Hopelessness, which features the haunting “Drone Bomb Me,” told through the perspective of a young Afghani girl, whose family has been killed by a drone. (The music video stars an emotional Naomi Campbell and is art-directed by Riccardo Tisci.) She also earned a 2016 Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song becoming the second only transgender person to be recognized by the Oscars and in 2017, released the EP Paradise. All of this to say, she’s easily one of the most successful and influential openly transgender artists working today. Stacy Lambe 

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