Civil Liberties

I Wasn't Actually Born That Way, But the Preacher's Boy Was


Andrew Sullivan suggests that Carl Bean's "I Was Born This Way" might be the gayest song ever. I thought the gayest song ever was "I Love My Fruit," or maybe Tiny Tim's "I'm Gonna Be a Country Queen," but we can set that aside. The interesting thing about "I Was Born This Way" is that it was composed by a heterosexual. As The Advocate reported in 1978,

[T]he lyric was written by Bunny Jones, a straight black woman with a family. Jones employed gay people in her New York hairstyling salon, and many of them became her close friends. When the gay rights issue got hot and heavy she decided that it was time for a positive statement.

"She is the opposite of Anita Bryant," states Bean.

I found that clip on the Queer Music Heritage website, which also informs us that the songwriters Ronnie Wilkins and John Hurley were lovers. Wilkins and Hurley wrote two major hits, one of which was "Son of a Preacher Man," which takes on new dimensions if you imagine it sung by a guy rather than by Dusty Springfield or Aretha Franklin. It may well be autobiographical, since Hurley himself is a gospel singer. (As is Carl "I Was Born This Way" Bean. That's Archbishop Carl Bean to you.) So I take back what I said about Tiny Tim: "Son of a Preacher Man" is the gayest song ever.

The other big hit written by Wilkins and Hurley? It's "Love of the Common People," which is, depending on how you prefer to think of it, a great country song by Waylon Jennings, a great soul song by the Winstons, a great reggae song by Nicky Thomas, or a great '80s pop song by Paul Young. Also, this guy plays it on the accordion, which is totally gay.