Heroes of the Revolution: Patrick Cowley

Art by Rob Goldstein
The Rainbow Flag

Patrick Cowley was a gay liberationist who died as his brilliance was reaching its peak.

He is sometimes called the father of electronic dance music.

His influence is still clear in contemporary house music and techno.

Cowley played synthesizer on Sylvester’s 1978 hits “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat)” and he collaborated with Sylvester on his 1982 hit, “Do Ya Wanna Funk”

At 32, Patrick Cowley was among the first to die from the AIDS Epidemic.

Going Home is on the last track of Mind Warp, Cowley’s last album.
Cowley released Mind Warp in October of 1982, a month before he died from AIDS, which was still called GRID.

Cowley’s music embodies the energy and defiance that sparked and sustained the early Gay Liberation Movement.

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
John F. Kennedy

Liberating the human mind and human sexuality from the constraints of fear, bigotry, hate, and superstition is what gay liberation was about.

The revolution is never over!

Happy Pride Month!

‘The City” (c) Rob Goldstein 2016

PATRICK COWLEY
Going Home 1982
by DISCOS BOLICHEROS
Internet Archive

Sylvester
“Do You Wanna Funk” 1982
by DISCOS BOLICHEROS
Internet Archive

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Heroes of the Revolution: Elaine Noble

Art by Rob Goldstein
Elaine Noble

 

Elaine Noble served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms and is the first openly LGBT candidate elected to a state legislature.

She was sworn into office on New Year’s Day 1975 by governor Michael Dukakis.

She states that the campaign was “ugly” and marked by violence.  

Her windows were shot, her car was destroyed, and her supporters suffered threats and intimidation.

In March 1977 she was part of the first delegation of gay men and lesbians invited to the White House under President Jimmy Carter to discuss issues important to the LGBT community.

In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month

Data source Wikipedia
Image source unknown

Heroes of the Revolution: Sylvester

Art by Rob Goldstein
Sylvester

Sylvester James, Jr. (September 6, 1947 – December 16, 1988), was the first openly gay recording artist to gain international fame.

His first hit, Disco Heat, peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the fall of 1978.

It also reached #29 on the UK Singles Chart.

Sylvester was born in Watts, Los Angeles, to a middle-class family.

He first sang as a child with the gospel choir of his Pentecostal church.

Sylvester knew that he was gay while still a child.

At the age of eight Sylvester had sex with an older man.

His Mother could not accept his homosexuality and neither could his church.

He left the church because the congregation disapproved of his homosexuality and he found friendship among a group of cross-dressers and transgender women who called themselves The Disquotays.

He moved to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22 where he found acceptance and fame.

“I’ve never been a crusader, but I’ve always been honest. I may not volunteer details to the media, but I’ve never believed in lying or denying what I am to anyone.” Sylvester, September 10, 1988

The English journalist Stephen Brogan described Sylvester as “a star who shined brightly. He only happened once. He was a radical and a visionary in terms of queerness, music and race.”

Sylvester was a man of integrity and courage and that courage is clear in this interview with the Los Angeles Times in September of 1988:

Sylvester learned three months ago that he has AIDS, and he has spent most of the last few weeks at home, trying to regain his strength.

While often plagued by fatigue, the singer, 40, was well enough last June to lead a gay pride parade in San Francisco, albeit from a wheelchair.

“I can’t walk very well anymore,” he said in a phone interview. “I have problems with my feet and sometimes the pain is unbearable. But I don’t like to take pain killers because of the side effects.”

Despite the physical setbacks, Sylvester insists that his outlook remains positive.

“I’ve been in situations I shouldn’t have been in. We all have. But I still think that I’m a good person and I don’t regret anything I’ve done in my life,” he said.

“Down the line, I hope I won’t be in a lot more pain. But I don’t dwell on that. I’ll be fine, because my spirit is fine.”

Sylvester says that while black people are 12% of the population, more than 25% of all reported AIDS cases in this country involve blacks.

“It bothers me that AIDS is still thought of as a gay, white male disease,” said the singer, who has long been openly frank about his homosexuality.

“The black community is at the bottom of the line when it comes to getting information, even when we’ve been so hard hit by this disease. I’d like to think that by going public myself with this, I can give other people courage to face it.”

Sylvester, who rose to international fame during the late ’70s with such disco hits as “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” had been hospitalized three times before being diagnosed as having the AIDS virus.

“I’d been having throat problems and I thought it was bronchitis. I wasn’t worried. Having AIDS hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

Since that time he has spent five weeks in a hospital with pneumocystis, during which time he confronted his own mortality. “I was ready to go,” he said. “I made peace with that and I never thought, ‘Why me?’ I just accepted it.”

Disco Singer Sylvester Confronts AIDS Without Any Regrets

Sylvester died in his bed on December 16, 1988.

For a more complete biography of Sylvester I recommend this one at  Pop Matters.

Sylvester with Patrick Cowley: Don’t Stop
Community Audio

Heroes of the Revolution: Steven Grossman

Revolutions are made by communities of dedicated men and women who sacrifice personal gain for a greater good.

Before the Village People and Sylvester and K.D. Lang there was Steven Grossman.

Steven Grossman was the first openly gay singer songwriter signed to a major record label.

He released the album “Caravan Tonight” through Mercury Records in 1974.

I was 20 and living in New London, Connecticut when I first heard it.

I read a review of Caravan Tonight in Fag Rag and went to the largest record store on Bank Street and demanded the owner order it.

He ordered about thirty copies and promptly hid them.

I went to that store twice a week for a year to move Caravan Tonight from the back of the rack to the front.

Grossman wrote about sexual alienation and sexuality divorced from love.

He wrote about being Gay in a world of people who thought it a mental illness, a sin, a crime, and a moral failure.

And yet there is joy and passion in this album.

“Caravan Tonight’ is the first Gay love song ever released by a major record label.

“And if the freedom your heart embraces Is nothing but a vision in the sand Oh I’ll be waiting here I’ll be your oasis I’ll be your promised Your promised land”

Rolling Stone wrote in a review of Caravan Tonight: His (Grossman’s) vision is every bit as compelling as those of such brilliant mid-Atlantic provincials as Elliott Murphy and Bruce Springsteen. . . . Most important is the purity of Grossman’s sensibility. His communication of intense compassion, honesty and tenderness so eclipses the imperfections inevitable in the work of such a young artist (he’s only 22) that the greatest emotional impact of his Caravan is staggering, its appeal to the finest human values universal.” — Stephen Holden, RS 161 (May 23, 1974)

Rolling Stone also worried that the album would not get the play it deserved by radio stations because of the subject.

It is almost impossible to find ‘Caravan Tonight’ today..

Culture Catch offers this bit of biography: “Steven Grossman was born in 1952 in Brooklyn. He initially toyed with being an actor, planning to study at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse in New York while working at Coney Island during the summer to raise funds. He was a “stab and bagger,” a garbage collector on the beach.

Caravan Tonight was Steven Grossman’s only major release.

I ran into this personal account about Steven on the Steven Grossman Tribute page and decided to post an excerpt because it captures the political sensibility that shaped the lives of many of the young and politically active gay men of the early 1970’s.

“I knew Steven in Brooklyn roundabout 1971, having been a Brooklynite  myself. I had just come out over the previous year or so and was now living in a gay collective in the Boerum Hill. The house rule was that we put everything we owned and all the income we came upon into the collective treasury. My friends were mostly veterans of GLF. We lived in a 3 story brownstone with a storefront. So we had a teahouse we opened two nights a week. “ The Estate Project

Non-alcoholic tea-house dances were alternatives to the bars and bath houses that Gay Liberation saw as expressions of homophobia.

Steven Grossman was born in 1952.

He died in 1991 at the age of 39 of AIDS related complications.

He is now part of U.S. History and the history of the ongoing movement for human rights.

 

The Cover of Caravan Tonight
The Cover of Caravan Tonight

Caravan Tonight – Mercury SRM-1-702 (1974)

All songs by Steven Grossman:
Caravan Tonight
Out
Five O’clock Song
Christopher’s Blues
Song To Bonnie
Song To That M&M Man
You Don’t Have To Be Ashamed
Many Kinds Of Love
Can’t…Papa Blues
Circle Nine Times
Dry Dock Dreaming

 

Produced by Bobby Flax and Lanny Lambert Steven Grossman, acoustic guitar and vocals – Vinny Fuccella, acoustic lead and electric guitar – Andy Muson, bass – Jimmy Young, drums – Chris Dedrick, keyboards and recorder – George Devens, congas and percussion – Eric Weissber, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel guitar – Steven, Bobby, Lanny, and The Free Design, background vocals. Horns and strings arranged and conducted by Chris Dedrick.

Recorded December 1973 and January 1974 at Sound Ideas Studios, New York.

I do not own the images on this page though I did re-edit them.

I do not own the song, Caravan Tonight.

They are presented for educational purposes only.

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