How the LGBTQ+ Community’s Influence Shaped Music History & Culture

Edward Enninful, the Editor in Chief of British Vogue once said, “I can tell you, without diversity, creativity remains stagnant.” 

It’s safe to say that music touches the lives of every community. Whether it’s the way we celebrate, mourn, worship, exercise our bodies, sleep, or simply let loose, humans have been using music to express themselves creatively since the beginning of time.

Despite societal setbacks and lack of safe spaces throughout history, many singers, songwriters, producers, and performers who challenged the traditional ideas of gender and sexuality, became integral parts of music culture and drew major influence on the American music scene.

This Pride Month, we’re highlighting the ways in which the LGBTQ+ community has influenced music, and how this important part of history has shaped the music and entertainment industry we know and love today.

The Rise of Electronic, Disco, and House Music

If you know anything about music in the 60s and 70s, you’d know that these eras produced some of the most influential and iconic musical moments of all time. Beginning in the late 60’s, Electronic music began having a significant influence on popular music of the decade. As a result, by the late 70s, House music emerged as a new genre in Chicago, taking the underground scene by storm. Nightclubs like the Warehouse, located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, were made popular by black and queer club goers who favored the music style because of its upbeat, dance-friendly tempos.

Disco music, also closely associated with the underground gay clubbing culture in the ‘70s, rose to popularity through the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, and the Village People, who supplied the world with iconic gay anthems. Before becoming mainstream, these genres were pioneered, embraced, and created around the queer influence and experience, and are still celebrated today.

The Success of Major Artists

When it comes to the most successful gay singers of all time, there are few as iconic as Elton John. With over 300 million records sold worldwide, Elton John has not only solidified his place in music history, but also as an advocate in his community and champion of LGBTQ+ rights. As one of the first singers to publicly come out as gay in the early 1990s, Elton John persevered despite the societal stigmas of the time and continues to be a success to this day. Whether you know his music or not, you can’t help but appreciate his success story and courage to break down barriers.

A Mainstream Movement

Today, you can still feel the influence of the queer community more than ever. All around the world, LGBTQ+ marches and parades like NYC Pride feature some of the biggest recording artists of all time. Television shows like Emmy-award winning ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ incorporate dance, lip-syncing, and musical performance elements. More and more openly gay artists are bringing their creative expressions to the forefront in music videos, award show performances, concert tours, and more. Major artists of today like Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, and Janelle Monet have all been transparent in their sexuality and open in their support of the community through their work and beyond.

Whether you make music, consume it, sell it, or study it, there’s no denying the extensive and important history of the LGBTQ+ community’s influence. Next time you’re jamming out in your car, or thinking about your next concert experience, remember those who shared their creativity with the world while daring to be different.