The First Gay Pop Star

Back in January 1972, David Bowie became the first major pop star to say that he was gay.  He really wasn’t, but he said it anyway because it was good for publicity. 

So that begs the question: Who was the world’s first openly gay pop star?  Jobriath.  Who?  Precisely. 

After David Bowie’s publicity coup, Elektra Records thought that they’d better get their own gay pop idol.  They drafted an actor named Bruce Wayne Campbell from a production of the musical Hair.  He was renamed “Jobriath” and the label sunk a ton of money into the project. 

The hype was sensational: giant posters of a semi-naked Jobriath throughout New York.  A debut performance at the Paris Opera House.  An album made with the London Symphony Orchestra and Jimi Hendrix’s producer.  It was a flop. 

A second album–despite a catchy single called “Scumbag”–also flopped.  Jobriath ended up doing cabaret in Berlin before moving to New York and dying of AIDs in 1983.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “The First Gay Pop Star

  • February 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm
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    Long John Baldry was openly gay in the 60's, or are you only including pop stars?

    Reply
  • February 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm
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    Good point: I should have mentioned John Baldry ("Let the Heartaches Begin" was a huge pop single).

    Thanks,

    Alan

    Reply
  • February 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm
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    Would Klaus Nomi not be in the running? I know he was not a pop singer, and I don't know if he was openly gay, but he does have the "distinction" of being one of the first celebraties to die from AIDS (yes, I know dying of AIDS does not automatically mean one is gay.)

    Reply
  • February 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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    Bowie also stole his style from Scott Walker, another forgotten singer from his time.

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  • February 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm
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    Little Richard? Did he not jump in and out of the closet a few times?

    Reply

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