As the country prepares for the Equality March for Unity & Pride this weekend, it’s notable that Hollywood legend and gay icon Judy Garland, who inspired us with dreams of rainbows long before we took up the symbol for ourselves, would have turned 95 today.
As a young gay, I knew Garland was one of the LGBT world’s “high holies” in the pantheon of idols. I wasn’t the biggest fan, but I appreciated the talent.
Getting older as a gay man, as an artist in the theatre, AND as I learned to raise my voice as an activist, when I came across this clip from Judy’s 1960s TV show, I suddenly got it.
On December 13, 1963, Judy sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in honor of the recent death of President John F. Kennedy.
Garland and Kennedy were friends and she had campaigned on his behalf.
According to Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft, at the taping of this performance Judy looked into the camera and said, “This is for you, Jack,” but CBS edited it out as too political. Still, everyone knew what the song was about.
This remains my favorite performance ever by Garland. I see her vulnerability, her conviction, and her indomitable strength all at the same time.
Like a sorcerer whose once awesome powers might have dimmed, through sheer force of will she again summons powerful artistry to pay honor to her friend.
For a brief, shining moment the magic returned.
The loss of the president and the inspiration of his promise is clear in her eyes. Check out the 3:10 mark as she stands strong and tall in her conviction.
THIS was why she was a star. This is why she remains in our consciousness.
Today we celebrate the 70th (!) birthday of the all-fab Cher!
From her first #1 hit back in 1965 with then-hubby Sonny, “I Got You Babe,” Cher has been breaking down barriers for decades.
As a matter of fact, she’s had Billboard Top 10 hits spanning four decades. OR – six decades if you count her hits on the Billboard dance charts. Check out her amazing catalogue of music on iTunes here.
Truly the stuff legends dream of.
Here’s just a few of my video favorites over the years.
My ultimate Cher moment captured for the ages: when Cher reluctantly sang “I Got You Babe” with Sonny at the request of David Letterman on November 14, 1987. The magic showed up again – just look at Sonny’s face. Clearly, he was still in love.
Check the 2:19 mark when Sonny puts his arm around Cher’s waist. Such a natural connection between the two.
It is almost unfathomable that Janet Jackson turns 50 today.
Forever youthful, the youngest of the Jackson family released her debut album, the self-titled Janet Jackson in 1982 at the age of 16.
With record sales of over 160 million units, she is undeniably one of the best-selling artists in contemporary music. Click over to her iTunes page just to remind yourself of her huge catalogue.
The list of honors and awards she accumulated are far to long to enumerate, but I’ll just note that she’s received twelve American Music Awards, five Grammy Awards, nine MTV Video Music Awards, and thirty-three Billboard Music Awards, (the most of any artist).
I think my personal favorite of her superlative creative output has to be her HUGE Rhythm Nation album. Creatively and socially-aware, it set a new high bar for music artists in 1989.