'I'm Coming Out' by Diana Ross
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George Chauncey is so good at history that he gets to teach it at Columbia University. He also wrote 'Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940'. So even though we were skeptical when he wrote in 'Gay New York' that "coming out" didn't mean "coming out of the closet," we figured that this guy has serious gay history cred, so it's best to hear him out. He wrote that gays adopted the phrase from debutante balls, where young upper-class women "come out" in society because they want the world to know that they are ready to date and marry eligible guys. Chauncey also offers a theory on how the closet connection was made: "It may have been used initially because many men who remained 'covert' thought of their homosexuality as a sort of 'skeleton in the closet'." This song's lyrics speak of renewal in general, but this infectious dance hit, which peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200 in August 1980, is a natural fit for Pride Month.
'Dancing Queen' by ABBA
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The word ‘queen’ is so indelibly linked to the gay experience that the first dictionary of gay terminology was titled, ‘The Queens’ Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon'. The apostrophe placement on Bruce Rodgers’ 1972 work is telling. And while this 1976 hit was inspired by the plainly heterosexual courtship of Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t slap as a Pride Anthem.
'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!' by Shania Twain
On the surface, this is the go-to song for a girls' night out. But there's more to it than that. "This was an adventure for me, as it was all new," the Timmins native wrote in her 2011 autobiography 'From This Moment On' about hitting the clubs in Toronto in 1983. "Gay bars had the best dance music and the most impressive dancers... Being inexperienced at applying makeup, I marvelled at how artistic and glamorous some of the men were. They looked so gorgeous, with features that had been defined and exaggerated with blushes, liners, shadows and accessories," she wrote. "My fascination with this initial introduction to men transforming themselves into beautiful women likely sowed the seed of inspiration for a song I would write years later: 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman!'"
'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor
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This disco standard is a must for your playlist. In the 1978 hit, Gaynor sings about how she will survive the end of a relationship. The stakes were raised by the mid-'80s when those impacted by AIDS adopted the anthem. No longer was the struggle for survival metaphorical. "Oh no, not I, I will survive / Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive / I've got all my life to live / And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive / I will survive / I will survive".
'Sorry Not Sorry' by Demi Lovato
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In May, Lovato announced in a video that they identify as non-binary and had changed their preferred pronouns to "they/them". In the video, they said, "I feel that this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most authentic and true to the person I both know I am and still am discovering," Lovato said. Their video for "Really Don't Care" was shot at 2014's LA Pride Parade and is an out-and-out Pride anthem. But the 2017 banger "Sorry Not Sorry" embodies the bold, unapologetic attitude that is a vital part of Pride Month.
'Formation' by Beyonce
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Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation. The themes of love, loss, and oppression are embroidered through Bey's 2016 opus, 'Lemonade', especially in the roaring clap-back track "Formation". In a 2011 interview with Pride Source, Blue Ivy's mom talked about how her gay fans inspire her. "The amount of confidence and fearlessness it takes to do what maybe is not what your parents expect you to do or what society may think is different — to be brave and be different and to be yourself — is just so beautiful. Not worrying about satisfying or becoming what other people think you're supposed to be, that's, like, the ultimate dream."
'Don't Rain On My Parade' by Barbra Streisand
On May 14, 1969, Canada decriminalized "homosexual acts between consenting adults" with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. It received royal assent on June 27, the day before New York's Stonewall Riots. A year later, New York gay activists held a Pride Parade to commemorate the anniversary. And a year after that, on August 28, 1971, about 100 people gathered in the pouring rain on Parliament Hill for Canada's first Gay Liberation Protest and March. They presented a petition to the government with 10 demands for equal rights and protections. From here grew the annual tradition of gay-pride parades. Of course, any song about a parade could feasibly fit the Pride Parade playlist mandate. Still, this snappy song of determination from "Funny Girl" features lyrics like "Get ready for me, love / Cause I'm a commer / I simply gotta march / My heart's a drummer", making it almost scandalously Pride Month-friendly.
'Boys Keep Swinging' by David Bowie
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In a 2000 interview with 'Bust' magazine, Bowie said about the song: "I do not feel that there is anything remotely glorious about being either male or female. I was merely playing on the idea of the colonization of gender." In the video for this 1979 single from 'Lodger', he walks the runway in three drag looks, de-wigging himself and smudging his lipstick at the end of each catwalk or blowing a kiss.
'Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves' by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin
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This is first and foremost a feminist anthem, but songs as strong as this Grammy-nominated 1984 hit can lend their anthemhood to more than one movement, especially when they have the fight for empowerment in common. 'So we're comin' out of the kitchen / 'Cause there's somethin' we forgot to say to you, we say / Sisters are doin' it for themselves / Standin' on their own two feet / And ringin' on their own bells."
'True Colors' by Cyndi Lauper
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Here's Lauper on a float at Toronto's Pride Parade in 2015. Throughout her career, she has campaigned for equality through charities and gay pride events. She has friends and family in the community, including her sister, Ellen, who is a lesbian. "In the '70s and '80s, I saw incredible discrimination and had to speak out," she told the Georgia Voice in 2010. "You can't sit by while your friends and family are being treated like second-class citizens … Equality should matter to everyone regardless if you are in the majority or the minority. It's a slippery slope when one group is not free. Because when one group's freedom is up for grabs, that means your freedom could be next. Either we are all equal or we're not. It's all of our responsibilities, especially in the majority to fight for the minority." "True Colors" is the lead single and title track from her 1986 sophomore album, which also included the more obvious choice for Pride anthem, "Boy Blue", a song dedicated to a friend who died of AIDS.
Kacey Musgraves' 'Rainbow'
In 1978, San Fran gay activist Harvey Milk asked artist Gilbert Baker to create something to replace the pink triangle, a gay symbol co-opted from the Nazis who had used it to "identify homosexuals." Baker decided on a flag. "Flags are about power," he told ABC7 News in 2017. "Flags say something. You put a rainbow flag on your windshield and you're saying something." Each colour of the rainbow flag stands for something, Baker explained. "Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person; everyone shares that." The rainbow flag endures as a symbol of Pride and Musgrave's 2020 song fits naturally with the theme. At the 2018 New Yorker Festival, a fan asked how she felt about being a gay icon in country music. She said she was flattered, then laid into the country music scene's complete lack of inclusivity for LGBTQ fans. "It's crazy that a certain kind of a person could feel excluded from a genre that's so real — or supposed to be so real," said the Grammy winner, who also appeared on "RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars 4" as a guest judge.
'Over The Rainbow' by Judy Garland
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LGBT magazine 'The Advocate' has called Garland "the Elvis of homosexuals." But why? Could some hints possibly be found in this impossibly dated, disparaging 'Time' magazine review of a 1967 Garland performance? It reads, "Curiously, a disproportionate part of her nightly claque seems to be homosexual. The boys in the tight trousers roll their eyes, tear at their hair and practically levitate from their seats, particularly when Judy sings 'If happy little bluebirds fly / Beyond the rainbow / Why, oh why can't I?' Psychiatrists offer multiple explanations for the phenomenon..." Yes, 'Time' turned to two doctors to decode Garland's mystique. A more helpful 2007 piece in After Elton advanced that, "It's no coincidence that 'Friend of Dorothy' has long been a code for being gay, as the phrase indicates gay men's veneration not only of Garland, but particularly of the early role that brought her so much attention. Dorothy Gale's journey from Kansas to Oz mirrored many gay men's desires to escape the black-and-white limitations of small-town life … for big, colourful cities filled with quirky, gender-bending characters who would welcome them." Take Garland's role at the peak of the gay icon echelon and add a song that references rainbows, the community's chosen symbol, and you've got the 1939 song that is regarded as the gay anthem of the century.