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Book Review

Book Cover

David Bowie Made Me Gay
100 Years of LGBT Music


Author: Darryl W Bullock
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 71565 2 992
Publication Date: 12 July 2018

It is sad fact of both our past and current history that an artist’s sexuality can be viewed as a limitation on their public acceptance. Today, we have the very public face of Elton John, enjoying his success without the need to hide his relationship and that relationship not being a barrier to starting a family, but it wasn't always so. While there is still much road to travel before we become a fully enlightened and inclusive society, it remains important to remember the rich contributions that the LGBT community have made to our culture…

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 years of LGBT Music (2018. 358 pages) is an examination of the contributions which the LGBT community have made in the music industry, as writers, performers and impresarios. The book is written by Darryl W. Bullock, author of Florence Foster Jenkins. If his latter book is as well researched at this one, it may also be worth a look.

With a title like this the first question is, does this book have an agenda? Well of course it does, any serious work has one. Truth is a more pliable commodity than most would like to admit. It does not take many pages to work out that the agenda is no more than the accurate charting of not only the LGBT contributions to music, but also to place those artists and musical styles in their particular socioeconomic historical context. Reading the book will certainly open your eyes.

The book is broken up into nineteen chapters which are presented roughly in chronological order. I say "roughly" as each chapter examines either a particular musical movement, like jazz, or an associated cultural phenomena which sprang up at a specific historical moment. This is often ways which the LGBT artists could express themselves in a manner which would be culturally acceptable or how a hidden subculture continued to exist unbeknownst to the wider culture. Throughout this narrative is woven the historical acceptance or proscription of a non-heterosexual lifestyle.

More than anything, this is a book about artists and their works’ and should not be consigned to being of just interest to the LGBT community, any lover of music and its history will find much which is fascinating within these pages.

The book seems very well researched and each of the chapters has a large amount of references, seventeen pages for those of us that like that sort of thing. The book also contains a bibliography and an index.

The book mostly covers British and American artist, with a smidgen of Australian and European acts, but this does not distract from the overall enjoyment as most readers are likely to be native English speakers.

I’m not sure why the author chose the title as there is not a whole lot of Bowie in the book and I would hate if anyone were put off this fascinating book due to the lack of Bowie. It is eye catching and maybe that was the point as 100 Years of LGBT Music may come over as a little dry.

Ultimately, I liked the book. Given my age, many of the latter chapters held little that was novel as it covered my own lifetime, I was more fascinated by the pre-war stuff, but I am sure there are younger eyes for which my youth has slipped away to become just another history.


Charles Packer

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