George Michael Way

Along with George Michael’s Faith & Older on this mp3 collection is : Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson): The Ultimate Collection – Grenada-born singer and musician was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930 – a friend and lover of Cole Porter; Love Is A Drag: For Adult Listeners (Lover Man);  Elton John: Blue Moves (Sorry Seems); Flash & The Pan: (Walking In The Rain); Rexy Spice; Arsenal. A cd that spans  generations, styles, continents & levels of queerness. 

I was not a Wham! fan. They are a great pop group but too pop for me. Michael’s life, to me, is more compelling than his music not that his music is of no interest. His lyrics took one a more ‘spiritual’ turn as his career progressed. It was cool to have this out gay equivalent to Justin Timberlake, though Michael was more creative in the long run. I enjoy these albums & I am sad that fame killed him.

I heard about Hutch (Leslie Hutchinson) from a BBC series about British Black History. The host visited spots, neighbourhoods were noted but forgotten black people had lived or performed. I was intrigued by Hutch’s sexual reputation which, as the time, only enhanced his reputation. The Ultimate is a fun, sound quality  is decent, his voice pleasant & the songs are the best of the period by the likes of Cole Porter (with whom Hutch had an affair). Good music by someone seemly forgotten about in gay/bi history.

‘Love Is A Drag’ is a fun, fine 60’s collection of nightclub/show tune torch/love songs about men sung by a man. I came across an article about this lp being reissued & downloaded it from iTunes. The songs are given ‘ordinary’ direct performances – no mocking or sexualizing – at the time this was sold in the backs of magazines & was considered very out there. Another fine piece of queer history.

Elton John’s navigation of being out has been a benchmark, role model for decades now. Blue Moves a great double that I enjoy & it’s hard not to listen to his pre-out catalogue for signs – but he was merely the singer not the lyricist. An example of the universality of human emotions – love is love regardless of gender or sexuality. 

Flash & The Pan’s Walking In The Rain with the lyric ‘Feeling like a woman/looking like a man’ highlights a great power pop album of songs. Grace Jones does a good take on this song but I prefer this original. Rounding out this trip though queer music history is the contemporary Rexy Spice – a Toronto folk/punk/protest rocker. His ‘Arsenal’ is a great look at what non-mainstream (i.e. Adam Lambert) queer music can be – funny, energetic & thoughtful. A modern day Cole Porter worth hearing. Highly recommended.

Balcony

There was this noise on the balcony. A heavy shifting of weight, like a body falling, dropping, as if someone falling had reached out and caught the edge of the balcony and stopped their fall & heaved themselves over the rail and into the folded lawn chairs I had no where else to keep in the winter. I wanted them near at hand in case I ever had company. Wishful thinking, I know, but it says to be prepared for the best.

I turned down the TV. I could heard the wind. A rustling of something, not leaves too late in the year for them. Tentatively I went to the window and looked. Half expecting it to be one of those fright movie moments when a distorted face would be peering back at me of some sort of alien entity that tumbled from a UFO to my balcony. 

I saw nothing. As my eyes became accustomed to the dark I could make out a clump of something green plastic. Was that fucking a garbage bag? Had someone tossed their trash over their balcony & the wind blown it onto mine.

The living room light didn’t illuminate the corner it was in. I got my flashlight and went out for a closer look. The wind was as cold as a January wind would be. I should have put on my gloves. It wasn’t a bag but a bundle-like a sheaf of papers or old towels. The wind making it move like it was alive. Like something alive was wrapped in it. 

I reached down to it. I heard a small moan. Pulled my hand back.

What the fuck!

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Billy Strayhorn

I’m jumping the jazz queue for this month; with Pride coming at the end of June I thought I would look at some gay music icons. In jazz there are fewer than one would expect, other than divas like Bessie Smith.

bury what’s been hid

On my shelf is ‘Lush Life’ a collection of Billy Strayhorn performances – solo, combo & with Ellington. He was an out gay man all his adult life – David Hajdu’s biography, also called ‘Lush Life’ goes into great detail about Billy’s career, accomplishments & his out life. Read it.

He was Ellington’s arranger, composer & co-composer for too many songs to list. It’s like seeing how much Cole Porter wrote. Amazing. Take the ‘A’ Train & Satan Doll – two of the better known.

reflection Danforth reflections

But he rarely took the spotlight. It’s not clear why not in the biography – perhaps being queer in private life was fine but being so & on stage at the same time wasn’t possible. He developed drinking and drug problems – standard for the frustrated.

The music is polished, full bodied and varied. He sings a few songs on this CD and has a good jazz voice – a bit like Chet Baker. His piano playing is superb. His lyrics are pointed, sometimes sad, and reflect his frustrations.

glass not even half full

Lush Life being a prime example: it starts: ‘I used to visit all the very gay places/Those come what may places’ and ends ‘Romance is mush/ Stifling those who strive./ I’ll live a lush life in some small dive/ And there I’ll be while I rot with the rest/ of those whose lives are lonely, too.’ Alcoholism killed him.

samples

hush

 

a song

melody

notes float

hover in the air

a voice

perhaps a voice

I don’t listen that closely sometimes

nor do I care

listening is transport

to another place and time

without movement

without language

 

a song

voices merge   separate

violins twine cautious   then fully

power throb of choke hold that slackens

tightens

another note

another coin hovers

a flute

oboes

they join with the violins

the deep brass of coronets

also joins

a race

run around a melody

stomp it

hide it

suddenly

speak it

plain simple

a single plucked

string

reverberates with melody

 

hush

 

not too long

as I sit   listen

my heart beats in the hush

rapid with expectation

the large rush

several all whole

hundreds

how large is that orchestra

how can it fit in my little speaker

how can it be contained by my ears

 

another listening

another day

another hour to sit

guitars pile metallic gratings around me

drums scatter around my eyes

move so quickly

the ears can barely follow them

to sort them out from the rapid flame guitar

cannot separate them from the voice

the soft gentle silky voice

the rough gravel voice

the several voices

all voice

in all songs

do the same thing

they merge   submerge

dance around destroy displace

replace enhance melody

the linger flicker of notes

take the strings of the heart

the voice of the heart

that flow follow through

a tease becomes sooth anger

dance

caress

slabs of guitar

scour the air

weld the steel of strings

to the windows

fill the corner

as full as full can be

stir memory

promising so much more

then over

 

silence

 

hushed again

waiting for something to follow

sit in the comfortable chair

hear the melody

written before I was born

recorded before I was born

words before I could speak

a sound that speaks to me

to people I will never meet

people with better things to do

people who hear but don’t listen

people who deny this moment

this sound

this joy

 

another song wait

it doesn’t exist till I hear it

till it merges with my life

with my moments of

being the one to hear

the one to command

to relax   slip

into where it will take me

 

I give the music permission

to move me

touch me

take me

where no human can or will

I surrender to what I don’t understand

why that melody reaches out to me

why that guitar

why that voice

why that violin

why those chords

no tongue can describe

tree02 winter sky

WPMY14