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Klaus Nomi & Lavender Country : 25 of music’s most underrated trailblazers across the queer spectrum

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Klaus Nomi

Like a being from another planet flung tragically towards this Earth, this bizarre performance art and music legend still serves as a guardian angel to the true weirdos of the art world. Nomi’s legacy will always (for better or worse) be associated with that of David Bowie, who he sang backup for throughout the late 1970s and was featured on the infamous December 15th, 1979 Saturday Night Live performance. But Nomi’s contributions to the history of queer culture – both his strange, quivering takes on pop standards
and his lavishly sung operatic overtures – are certainly indelible. Subverting the assumed heterosexuality of both highbrow and lowbrow music (Nomi refused to change the pronouns of the love objects of his songs so as to better reflect his desires), it was Klaus’s geometric sci-fi fashions and avant-garde
aspirations that came to define the amorphous “no wave” movement. Nomi’s death from AIDS-related complications in 1983 prevented us from knowing what he could have accomplished with a longer life, but he’s on a different journey through the stars now. E.S.

Lavender Country

If Lavender Country‘s lone album were to come out tomorrow, it would still sound radical. The fact that it was originally released in 1972 with songs like “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” and “Back in the Closet Again” feels positively miraculous. Far away from the Music Row machinery in Seattle, singer-songwriter and Patrick Heggarty and his bandmates Michael Carr, Eve Morris and Robert Hammerstrom made what may well be the first ever queer country-folk album, recorded with the assistance of fellow activist Faygele Ben-Miriam. It’s shot through with queer loneliness and heartbreak, yes, but also a sense of humor – evidence that classic country song themes were never the exclusive domain of straight folks. The album’s influence is still echoing today in the work of out country and roots musicians like Little Bandit, Karen and the Sorrows and Sam Gleaves. J.F.

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