My three passions are:
Music, Movies and Fashion!
Though I had crushes on female singers, oddly when sussing out who I was, I didn't seek Sapphic lyrics. Unlike others, there was no singing out loud and proud from me, to Katy Perry's kitschville city, "I kissed a girl, and I liked it". Nor did I include them in my beecharming slick mixtapes - no idea as to why not. Wow, I so loved and miss compiling those mixtapes with the coolest remixes. For me, it was New Order, St Etienne, Coldplay, The Smiths, Erasure, The Killers, Hot Chip, The xx, [STOPPPP!], with a mix of slit-your-wrist operatic arias, old-skool blues and whimsical Cole Porter.
Yet, when some of my music heroes came out as queer / bi e.g. Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, Andy Bell of Erasure, Morrisey, Pet Shop Boys - inside I was so dancing with J.O.Y! Seldomly, I heard about female singers coming out - wahoo to Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes (What's Up), Joan Jett, and...
... and the new kids on the block. For me it's not about Sapphic lyrics but it would be ace to see for example female singers taking their girl to award ceremonies, mentioning them in interviews so it just becomes a norm.
Definitely there were some surprises while collating this list!
The Blues Singers
During this research I was stunned to discover that some of the queens of blues were friends of Dorothy and had lady lovers. This pose of bi and lesbian singers included Ma Rainey, who got arrested for indecency at an all-girl party while married to a man, Gladys Bentley, a "bulldagger" in full white tuxedo and top hat, and less overt Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. Their costumes were lavish and lyrics, sometimes sexually suggestive to the point of being dirtier than the dirtiest modern rapper! For example, Lucille Bogan bellows: "I've got nipples on my titties as big as the end of my thumb/ Got somethin' 'tween my legs'll make a dead man come!" I so want to see Robert Philipson's documentary "T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: Queer Blues" (2011). At first I was shocked on reading that Gladys Bentley "changed" her sexual orientation and revealed this through an Ebony magazine interview. It was during, 50s America with The Lavender Scare and McCarthyism. I also take it with a pinch of salt as I think she was a PR queen, ahead of her time!
The Cabaret Singers
Being half German, I am fascinated by the Weimer cabaret scene of the jazz age but it was surprising to learn how singers differently reacted to the Nazis regime. The great: Dietrich refused to return to Berlin to star in Nazi propaganda movies and from America helped fund Jews and French dissidents escape from Germany to America also performing in morale-boosting shows for Allied troops abroad while Josephine Baker gallantly risked her life as a French resistance agent. Both deservedly received a French Légion d'honneur. The bad: French cabaret singer and ‘the most painted woman in the world’ Suzy Solidor was convicted by the Épuration légale as a collaborator and was exiled from France. Swedish actress Zarah Leander consciously moved to Berlin and starred in ten UFA films which were vehicles for Goebbels' despicable Nazi propaganda.
The Totally Left Field!
Maxene Andrews of the legendary harmony group Andrews Sisters lover was her adopted daughter! At first I was astounded to discover this but then my heart-missed-a-beat as to why. At the time same sex marriages were illegal. Bizarrely by adoption her life long partner would be able to sign healthcare documents for when Maxene was badly ill in hospital and ensure she would receive her rightful inheritance.
During the 1910s and 1920s Claire Waldoff was a famous kabarett singer (singing Berlinisch (Berliner slang)) in Berlin and who preformed with Marlene Dietrich. When the Nazis... more
Weimer Track: "Ach Jott, Wat Sind Die Männer Dumm" ("Oh, God, How Stupid Men Are")
German Singer: 1884 – 1957
Gertrude, 'Ma' Rainey is known as "The Mother of Blues". She started off on the vaudeville circuit and then in the 1920s, wearing short cropped hair and a tuxedo she... more
Out Track: "Prove It on Me Blues" (1928)
African-American Blues Singer & pianist: 1886 – 1939
Clara Smith was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners". She started off on the vaudeville, cabaret and speakeasy circuits. In a ten year career she recorded over... more
Bluesing-it Track: "Strugglin' Woman's Blues" (1927)
African-American Blues Singer: 1890-1940
Bessie Smith is known as the "Empress of the Blues" and became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. She made 160 recordings in all and some were accompanied by... more
Fav Tracks: "Back Water Blues", "Downhearted Blues" - TOO many!
African-American Blues Singer: 1894 – 1937
Alberta Hunter singing and songwriting career spanned four decades performing in America and across Europe. She started out singing in a seedy brothel which was run by... more
Bluesing-it Track: "Got the Blues So Bad" (?)
African-American Blues Singer: 1895 – 1984
Ethel Waters started on the black vaudeville circuit > joined a carnival > Harlem nightclubs. Her career break came in 1925 with her first hit, "Dinah". She is a lady of numerous firsts:... more
Slick Track: ❤ "Stormy Weather" & "Miss Otis Regrets"
African-American Singer & Actress: 1896 – 1977
Flamboyant Suzy Solidor was a legendary yet controversial French cabaret singer and socialite who brightened up the Parisian nightlife. Early in 1930, she became a popular singer and... more
Melancholic Track: "Ouvre" (?)
French Singer: 1900 – 1983
In the 1930 movie Morrocco, a tuxedo-clad Dietrich gave cinema and, us, one of the first on-screen lesbian kisses. Femme fatale... more
Track for Mummy & Daddy (Scottish Officer): ❤ Lili Marleen" (1944)
German-American Singer: 1901 - 1992
Josephine Baker, a.k.a "Black Venus", the "Black Pearl", was a hugely popular African-American entertainer in Europe particularly in her adopted home of France, French Resistance... more
Tres chic Track: "La Vie En Rose" (1969)
African-American Singer: 1906 - 1975
Described by an observer as a "masculine garbed smut-singing entertainer" Gladys Bentley was a talented blues singer, pianist, and entertainer during the Harlem... more
Bluesing-it Track: "Ground Hog Blues" (?)
African-American Blues Singer: 1907 – 1960
Controversial Zarah Leander was a Swedish singer and actress who was one of the most celebrated female screen idols in German Nazi Cinema 1936 – 43, playing... more
Track: "Ein Paar Tränen Werd Ich Weinen Um Dich" (?)
Swedish Singer & Actress: 1907 - 1981
A total heroine of mine, Billie Holiday, a.k.a "Lady Day" is one of the greatest singers (with Ella Fitzgerald) ever, ever, ever. She was an American jazz and swing... more
Fav Tracks: "Lover Man", "Lady Sings The Blues", "God Bless the Child"... too many!
African-American Singer: 1915 – 1959
Maxene Anglyn was the middle sister of The Andrews Sisters who were an American close silky smooth harmony group and icons of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. Selling... more
Boogie Track: "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (1941)
Singer: 1916 - 1995
Dusty Springfield was an iconic figure of the Swinging Sixties. She was one of the best-selling UK singers of the 1960s and made one of the biggest impressions... more
Slick Track: Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield "What Have I Done To Deserve This" (1987)
English Singer: 1939 – 1999
Surely, every teen girl knows that feeling "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to..." Number one hit and Grammy nominated "It's My Party" was sung by Lesley Gore, at the age of 16!... more
Popular Track: "It's My Party" (1963)
American Singer: 1946 – 2015
As frontwoman for the Runaways (1975 - 1979), Joan Jett became a Grrrl trailblazer in the boystown world of rock music and, went on to become one of the most... more
Kick-ass Track: "I Love Rock N' Roll" (1982)
American Singer: 1958