Sonic Liberation: The Impact of Black LGBTQIA+ Musicians

Focusing on the impact of some of the world’s most influential musicians is just one way we’re honouring both Black History Month and LGBTQIA+ Month. Each of the artists here has worked incredibly hard to change the course of music. Not only do we look at their impact but their importance and how they mastered their music.

Billie Holiday: The Lady of the Day

Billie Holiday’s voice has echoed through the ages, remembered mainly for her unique and undeniably transporting voice. She went on to be held as one of the most influential LGBTQIA+ performers after she was discovered in Harlem. Holiday’s music holds a haunting and mesmerising way of capturing the emotional turmoil she encountered.

Due to the phenomenal artist being openly bisexual, she faced many difficulties. This included her alleged relationship with Tallulah Bankhead, which furthered this judgement and divide. Even so, she stayed true to herself and what she believed in, since going on to win multiple Grammy’s posthumously. This is as well as being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yet after she died in 1959, the impact she had on jazz music has stood the test of time.

Grace Jones: A World of Her Own

Grace Jones is one of the most recognised faces when it comes to queer power. This jack of all trades broke into the scene with her modelling career. Quickly becoming a trailblazer, she was sought after for her androgynous look. Following this, she began her journey into music and in 1977 brought the iconic ‘Portfolio’ into the world. The album featured her rendition of Édith Piaf’sLa vie en rose’ as well as the astounding club hit ‘I Need A Man’.

The impact of watching her brother as he dealt with his sexuality showed her the fluidity of gender. Additionally written about in her memoir, ‘I’ll Never Write My Memoirs’, the superstar had found herself in gay clubs surrounded by people who lived in a whole other world. Blurring the boundaries of what gender meant, Miss Jones will always be a pioneer of self-expression and being true to who you are completely.

Kimya Dawson – One with Everything

Kimya Dawson is a saving grace to anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong. Making a name for herself as one-half of The Moldy Peaches with Adam Green, the pair released one album in 2001 that was meant just for friends to hear. However, the band gained a cult following for its joyful and completely bizarre lyrics. She continued to make music, although not necessarily breaking into the mainstream. It is a nod to the people who understand it the most.

With the indie-rock scene bubbling in the early 2000s, Kimya put on her bunny suit and sang her heart out. By using different influences from every part of life it created a safe space of childlike wonder. In particular, it tackles the difficulties of growing up with people who don’t quite understand you, or the struggles all teenagers face about how they think they look. Undeniably, it takes much inspiration from the incomparable Daniel Johnston whose impact made them who they are, they found their sound in unmerciful honesty and humorous storytelling. Since using Instagram to state their pronouns as She/They/Grandpa, the singer confides in her fans as if they were close friends.

Frank Ocean: See Both Sides

Frank Ocean is one of this generation’s greatest masters in music. He has an unforgettable voice and an otherworldly way of transporting you through every avenue of his life. Although Frank does not tend to invite people into his sexuality, his music has stood as a safe space for young queer listeners that see themselves in the tales he tells. Ultimately, his breakthrough came when he joined the hip-hop collective Odd Future. The whacky and unconventional group was breaking boundaries and dominating the 2010s. It gave names to upcoming musicians and furthered those already existing, such as Tyler, The Creator, and Earl Sweatshirt. This cherished lyricist released his first mixtape ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ in 2011, and following this came the multifaceted ‘Channel Orange’.

The devoted artist often writes about his experience with his sexuality in a way that isn’t giving too much of himself away. As music can be one of the rawest ways of expression, every lyric can be up for interpretation. It has been down to the fans to hold him as a representative of themselves. One thing he does immensely well is create a secure place for artists and listeners that allows them to make their connections to his sound.

Syd: Say it Out Loud

Someone who has always been clear about their sexuality is Syd. Another artist who got their start in Odd Future, she has always been a spokesperson for being yourself. Growing up in an already musical family, filled with producers and musicians, it was obvious where her love of music stemmed from. This led to the release of her first solo single ‘All About Me’ in 2017, produced by Steve Lacy. She collaborated with Lacy over many years as part of the innovative supergroup The Internet.

Syd showed a whole new side of queer relationships in the 2022 album ‘Broken Hearts Club’, inspired by a breakup that led to her first heartbreak. The talented artist had given the world a gift with this record, that resonated with many people. As everyone knows, battling heartbreak is something that is inevitable and yet shattering, however, something beautiful arose from it. Along with this, it gave people who may not have felt seen in this light before, someone to look up to. In addition to her tender truthfulness, the artist has always been frank, whether that meant having a girl as a love interest in a music video or speaking openly about the homophobic claims against Odd Future’s lyrics. Without a doubt, the committed performer recognises the path she has paved for others to express themselves.

Honey Dijon: Passion is a State of Mind

Honey Dijon has been showing her passion forever, the New York/Berlin-based DJ has been the face of activism and using music to exhibit devotion. Staying true to her roots, her staple house music style was birthed in the African and Latino community, so when becoming a DJ in the 90s she created a haven for young queer black people. Although she didn’t release her debut album ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ until 2017, she has always been a pillar in the communities she is a part of. While starting her career as a DJ she was also transitioning, so in many ways, these two journeys’ go hand in hand, as she navigated her way through finding herself personally and through her music.

In a mainly male-dominated field, this phoenix rose through the flames and made her way into the clubs and hearts of many audiences. In particular, crediting the MeToo Movement and the increase of trans acknowledgement in the mainstream media as something that helped her be recognised in conversations about inequality. Likewise, the superstar uses her voice to bring these, and many other matters to the forefront. She is here to share her experiences and speak out no matter how uncomfortable it makes other people. Most importantly, conversations about race, gender, LGBTQIA+ issues, and so many more are what will help the world make strides toward equality.

Celebrating the Impact of Greatness

All in all, every single one of these creatives has made their mark on the world, breaking barriers and inventing new worlds for artistry and innovation. It is most important to recognise the impact that has come from these and so many more artists as well as how music can not only heal but bring people together. Without music, we wouldn’t hear the stories that need to be told as well as heard.

You can find more pieces where we celebrate Black History Month as well as LGBTQIA+ Month. Read other articles here.

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