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AllenLowe

Gay Jazz Musicians

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a few years ago Francis Davis led a panel on this subject, because it was something jazz people never used to talk about - well, I was speaking to Larry Gushee last night; Larry is the most meticulous researcher in jazz, and was on the jazz scene in the 50s and 60s; he dropped an interesting bombshell - that both Bunk Johnson and Ben Webster were gay,

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a few years ago Francis Davis led a panel on this subject, because it was something jazz people never used to talk about - well, I was speaking to Larry Gushee last night; Larry is the most meticulous researcher in jazz, and was on the jazz scene in the 50s and 60s; he dropped an interesting bombshell - that both Bunk Johnson and Ben Webster were gay,

But not in a relationship, I take it.

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A bombshell if revealed 50 years ago, but in 2011?

Now if you told me they were KGB agents...

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Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Edited by Dave James

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I think we know most of the list. Fred Hersch, Andy Bey, Gary Burton, Dena DeRose, Billy Strayhorn, and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting at the moment.

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Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Cecil Taylor, Don Pullen... there ar several others that I know of, but some of them are still among us.

...and that's no bunk!

A bombshell if revealed 50 years ago, but in 2011?

Now if you told me they were KGB agents...

Bunk and Webster? I would say that even now that qualifies as a bombshell.

KGB? Naw..... unless they were double agents.

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Claire Gordon's "My Unforgettable Jazz Friends" recounts at least one incident in which Big Ben got it on with a woman. (It's a good book btw.I bought it from her at a meeting of the Duke Ellington

Society but it's avaialbe on Amazon. )

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i would think that re: any living musician, we would only be writing about those who are already "out"!

i doubt quite sincerely that Oscar, Count, Dizzy, Duke and Miles would be termed "gay". perhaps "bi-sexual" would be more appropriate, if true.

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Gary Burton of course. He's been out for a long time and has had a incredible career as a musician and instructor.

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Bunk apparently had an affair with Bill Russell (not the basketball player, the N.O. historian); and all Larry said was "everybody knew Webster was gay."

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i would think that re: any living musician, we would only be writing about those who are already "out"!

i doubt quite sincerely that Oscar, Count, Dizzy, Duke and Miles would be termed "gay". perhaps "bi-sexual" would be more appropriate, if true.

No if about it regarding the names you cite, Valerie.

Puilling out the old bi-sexual card is just plain naïve—perhaps with a bit of wishful thinking or denial thrown in. You have been on the scene long enough to know that any gay jazz musician had to play the game and at least appear to be bi-sexual, but even that was not accepted—except when it came to women. For some reason, perhaps because many men like to see two women make love, same-sex affairs (or just dancing and holding hands) was quietly acceptable.

If a man wants to have sex with another man, and enjoys it, you can call him a grapefruit, bi-sexual, curious, or whatever.. he is as gay as the man who expresses his desires openly.

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If a musician chooses to say that he or she is gay, that's fine with me. Otherwise, I have no interest in reading other people's speculation about musicians' sexual preferences.

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i would think that re: any living musician, we would only be writing about those who are already "out"!

i doubt quite sincerely that Oscar, Count, Dizzy, Duke and Miles would be termed "gay". perhaps "bi-sexual" would be more appropriate, if true.

No if about it regarding the names you cite, Valerie.

Puilling out the old bi-sexual card is just plain naïve—perhaps with a bit of wishful thinking or denial thrown in. You have been on the scene long enough to know that any gay jazz musician had to play the game and at least appear to be bi-sexual, but even that was not accepted—except when it came to women. For some reason, perhaps because many men like to see two women make love, same-sex affairs (or just dancing and holding hands) was quietly acceptable.

If a man wants to have sex with another man, and enjoys it, you can call him a grapefruit, bi-sexual, curious, or whatever.. he is as gay as the man who expresses his desires openly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/health/23bisexual.html?scp=1&sq=bi-sexual&st=cse

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Paul, I think it's part of the life and the history - for example, Bunk having an affair with the man who basically brought him back to the music. Think of Verlaine and Rimbaud, for one example of how the relationship can affect our knowledge of the art -

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Paul, I think it's part of the life and the history - for example, Bunk having an affair with the man who basically brought him back to the music. Think of Verlaine and Rimbaud, for one example of how the relationship can affect our knowledge of the art -

That's one way to see it and it's fine that it works for some people. For myself, unless I hear or read something from a musician's mouth, it's all just rumor and second hand talk and I'm not interested.

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i would think that re: any living musician, we would only be writing about those who are already "out"!

i doubt quite sincerely that Oscar, Count, Dizzy, Duke and Miles would be termed "gay". perhaps "bi-sexual" would be more appropriate, if true.

No if about it regarding the names you cite, Valerie.

Puilling out the old bi-sexual card is just plain naïve—perhaps with a bit of wishful thinking or denial thrown in. You have been on the scene long enough to know that any gay jazz musician had to play the game and at least appear to be bi-sexual, but even that was not accepted—except when it came to women. For some reason, perhaps because many men like to see two women make love, same-sex affairs (or just dancing and holding hands) was quietly acceptable.

If a man wants to have sex with another man, and enjoys it, you can call him a grapefruit, bi-sexual, curious, or whatever.. he is as gay as the man who expresses his desires openly.

Whatever way I turn it, I don't understand the sentence I put in bold above. Please explain!

And Basie? Really? Not that I'd be morally shocked or something, but it always seemed to me he had loads of love and affection for his wife Catherine - "my Katy, my baby" - here's a passage written by Larry Kart in 1986:

A theme that recurs throughout the book is Basie's love of his wife, Catherine. He first sees her when she is sixteen, one of the three "Snakehips Queens" who danced with May Whitman's vaudeville troupe. And when they finally wed (or, as Basie puts it, become "boy and girl"), his profound sense of satisfaction is almost palpable. Then, toward the end of "Good Morning Blues," Catherine Basie dies, and this is how the narrator presents it: "That album turned out to be the last one I made while Katy was alive, and she didn't get to hear it because we lost her last April while I was up in Toronto. She was at home in Freeport, where she had been since late fall because her doctor had advised her to stay home and take it easy and watch her weight. So I knew she was not in the best of health, but all during the time while I was at home during the Christmas break, she didn't seem to be having serious problems either. She was just her usual self, and that's the way she was when I came back to work in January, and that's how she sounded on the telephone every day. Then all of sudden she was gone. My Katy, my baby." That stark, four-word coda, with its double, falling cadence. Anyone, I suppose, can tell that only in this way could Basie express a weight of feeling that otherwise might have overwhelmed him - although in doing so he threatens to overwhelm us.

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Whatever way I turn it, I don't understand the sentence I put in bold above. Please explain!

Valerie said "if true". Chris is saying there is no "if" (or "are no ifs") about it (he's asserting that what he said is true).

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next on the agenda: drummer necrophiliacs.

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I fail to see the point in this thread.

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The point was, I think, that Bunk and Ben seem unlikely members of the gay community.

I find it interesting that we still detect that hint of denial in a few of the responses on this thread. This is the 21st Century. Some of the greatest people ever were/are gay. It is not a crime. It is not anything that should make one shudder. Yes, Basie loved his wife—that does not preclude his leading a more encompassing life. I'm sure John Hammond also loved his wives.

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Not judging, just saying... if Oscar Peterson was gay, he did a pretty good job on the other side of the fence - 4 wives, father to seven children (at least). First time I heard that one.

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Are we supposed to read between the lines here? "Most meticulous researcher"?

Is it ok for me to say that Larry Gusshee is gay at this point, or should I wait until he's been dead and gone for a while?

I'm goug to go ahead with it. Larry Gushee is gay. Allen Lowe told me on a message board.

What? Irresponsible journalism? SFW?

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Some of ya'll are VERY naive or in odd denial. Before buying the 10th reissue of X, Y, Z I strongly suggest you read George Chauncey "Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940"--

http://www.amazon.com/Gay-New-York-Culture-1890-1940/dp/0465026214

THEN, besides Bessie on the distaff side and Charles Brown and Bayard Rustin, how many gay black folks can you name pre-1960?

Like they were excepted!! (Or accepted.) (But in fact there was v. interesting gay black/trannie culture, of which Little Richard & Esquirita are only best known examples.)

All you candyasses-- and I use the term affectionately (munch munch munch)-- turning away are only adding to long legacy of shameful oppression tho' obviously the counter-reaction to that is subject of much great art, William S. Burroughs and Hubert Selby (where the gay Brooklyn tranny is also charismatic bop hepcats) to the best Benjamin Britten ("Billy Buddy," "Death In Venice"), etc.

Chris, if you didn't read it at the time-- and you might have-- get Irving Rosenthal's lone novel "Sheeper."

re: Bunk, I believe it-- now if you told me Billie Pierce... get in a three with DeDe and anything can happen, yeehaw!

Edited by MomsMobley

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