Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out
Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out by Martin Aston
coming June 2017, paperback
Popular music's gay DNA is inarguable: from Elvis in eye shadow to k.d. lang's female Elvis; from Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" to David Bowie's bisexual alien; from Frankie Say "Relax" to house music godfather Frankie Knuckles; from Kurt Cobain in a dress to punk icon/couture model Beth Ditto. Yet most of the first performers to defy the social and political conservatism of their time were typically the least visible, such as the '50s lesbian rockabilly trio and the '60s gay soul renegade, the gay country music band and the real gay glam and punk bands, the first queer rappers and trans rockers. Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache is not only the first book to tell the story of how music "came out" but to the first to shed light on these hidden pioneers alongside their famous counterparts.
Author Martin Aston's ambitious and comprehensive narrative unfolds over a hundred years, against a backdrop of social and political shifts, as gay liberation transmuted into LGBTQ rights, pushing for visibility and equality, from 1920s liberalism through to the closet of postwar years, the eventual breakthroughs of the '60s, the permissive '70s, the mainstream invasion and AIDS crisis of the '80s, and the advances of the '90s and noughties. Aston also documents the retrogressive steps in Russia and parts of Africa, where songs bravely encapsulating the LGBTQ experience signify how the journey from illegality and bigotry to freedom is far from over.