LGBTQ Jazz

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Gay Jazz

There is a rich history of LGBTQ Jazz composers, musicians, and singers. All of these individuals publicy announced their sexual orientation, and many have been active in supporting the community.

They include the classic singing sensations Johnny Mathis (who has sold a record 350 million albums worldwide, and noted for the song 'Misty'), Ethel Waters (the highest paid entertainer of her time, and noted for the song 'Stormy Weather'), Bessie Smith (the 'Empress of the Blues' and bisexual), and Billy Strayhorn (who wrote and performed the song 'Take the A Train').

Musicians range from world-renowned pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, to vibraphonist Gary Burton, to jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli (Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Order Nationale de France), to saxophonist Dave Koz. Notable in the jazz world is gayClaude Nobs of Switzerland who founded the famous Montreaux Jazz Festival.

Two of the contemporary LGBTQ Jazz artists, Andy Bey and Fred Hersch, have received a significant number of international awards for their work and have identified as HIV positive. Patricia Barber has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work; Chris Albertson, a noted jazz writer, has received two Grammy Awards; and Ralph Burns has received an Academy Award for his composition work on 'All That Jazz'.

One fascinating story is that of notable bandleader Billy Tipton, who was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton but lived his life (including marriage) as a man. It was only on his death that his doctor told the world he was gay, a story told in the book 'Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton' (1989).

We have been able to identify LGBTQ jazz musicians from France, Canada, Switzerland, the United States, Iceland, and Great Britain.

For more fascinating biographies, and links to videos of their performances:

Canada

France

Great Britain

Iceland

Switzerland

United States

Further Reading/Research


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