The Sexual Orientation of our Great Rock ‘N Rollers as Explained by Nietzsche

The Sexual Orientation of Our Great Rock ‘n Rollers as Explained by Nietzsche

I’m glad that the title of this little note got your attention and made you decide to read this.  To show my gratitude, I will try to be succinct, scintillating and not fancy shmancy — even though I’m briefly discussing Nietzsche.

In “The Birth of Tragedy,” Nietzsche said that art, among other things, was fueled by the drive to create in one’s art what evaded or eluded one in real life.   This drive manifests itself in the sexuality of some of our most famous Rock ‘n Roll Stars.  In rock, we find that the straightest dudes show their gayness and that gay guys show their straight traits.

For example, John Lennon, by all accounts, was exclusively heterosexual.  Indeed, he wasn’t merely a heterosexual; he was, reputedly, a caricature of  a macho, bruising, bashing son of a bitch.  But who was he in his music?  In addition to giving us explosive and energetic rock ‘n roll, he gave us a sweetness, tenderness and gentleness that seems a bit excessive for a straight guy.  “Imagine” is as sweet as the blackbird that Paul McCartney sung about in the White Album.  “Strawberry Fields Forever” exudes an ethereal, gentle diffidence (“Living is easy with eyes closed”) that straight men just aren’t supposed to have.   A “jealous guy” is ostensibly an apology to a woman he offended, but I don’t think any straight guy ever apologized so contritely and sincerely.  Ditto George Harrison.   He was by all reports straight.  But somehow he wrote a song which sports lyrics and music that seem very, very gay.  I am referring to their early hit, “I’m happy just to dance with you.”  As the title implies, the protagonist in the song, purportedly George, is happy just to dance with his girl and doesn’t even want to “kiss or hold (her) your hand.”    He sounds like a well-dressed gay guy dancing with a woman at a club.   All in all, these men, in their finest works, seem just a tad too cute to be straight.

Similarly, our greatest gay rock ‘n rollers seem to exhibit straightness in their optimal hits.  David Bowie, who in his early work seemed to be queerness amplified by speed and warped by acid, probably reaches the apogee of rock ‘n roll excellence in “Suffragette City,” a stick of dynamite which closes with the memorable line, “Wham Bam, Thank you Maam.”   Elton John, who is refreshingly forthright about his homosexuality, hit a home run with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” a twister of a song which takes the most quotidian of things – bear, girls and fights  – and whips them into a superb sonic frenzy.

However, as I think of Elton’s work, I can’t help but remembering a philosophy professor telling me that there are very few, if any, universal propositions in life.  A universal proposition is something along the lines of All A is B.  Since we should use these propositions sparingly, we shouldn’t rush to conclude that straight men write their great work only when they sound gay or visa versa.  For example, Elton John and David Bowie were pretty damn good, and gave off  more than an inking of gayness, in Rocket Man and “Starman” respectively.  And John Lennon’s nuts are ready to explode a load in “Anytime At All.”  Nevertheless, I think they are at their most enchanting and engrossing when there seems to be an incongruity between their orientation and their music.

Copyright, David Gottfried, 2012


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