Since rock’s beginnings in the 1950’s, homosexuality has been part of the genre and many gay rock singers have performed in various sub-genres throughout the years. Join me as we countdown the singers that were at the top of their game in the world of rock music!
The Best Gay Rock Singers (Summary)
No list about gay rock singers would be complete without rock n’ roll legend Little Richard, a trailblazer of 1950’s rock who would lay the foundations for the genre.
On top of that, gay rock singer Elton John would dominate the charts and radio during the 1970’s with tons of great songs.
And in the metal world, Rob Halford of Judas Priest is one of the most iconic vocalists of all time.
1. Little Richard
Let’s kick things off with someone who was there for the beginning of rock n’ roll. Little Richard took the world by storm as an effeminate and charismatic black man who played his piano at lightning speeds. Parents hated him, but some of his fans included guys like Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney who would go on to start their own groups based on Little Richard’s work.
Favorite Song by Little Richard: “Tutti Frutti” is Little Richard’s most iconic track for a reason—if you’re a rock fan who’s never heard this song, check it out. A lot of the rock n’ roll sounds we take for granted started right here.
2. Bob Mould
Taking a trip to the punk rock world of Minnesota in the 1980’s, Bob Mould was the guitarist and one of the primary songwriters of Husker Du, a classic punk group. Husker Du started off as a raw hardcore band but softened their sound as their musicianship and songwriting skills improved.
Favorite Song by Bob Mould: “Celebrated Summer,” from Husker Du’s 1985 New Day Rising album is one of the most melodic and moving songs in punk history.
3. Grant Hart
Grant Hart was the drummer of Husker Du, sharing songwriting and vocal duties with Bob Mould. Both men were homosexual, but there was never any shared love there—the band was infamous in their day for the level of tension between Mould and Hart. Yet it’s this same tension that made Husker Du’s albums so great, as both songwriters would try to do outdo each other.
Favorite Song by Grant Hart: “I’m Never Talking to You Again” is one of hardcore punk’s earliest displays of vulnerability, a melodic and acoustic-driven piece that showed the musical seriousness of Husker Du. Grant’s voice was always prettier and smoother than Bob’s punk rock snarl.
4. Elton John
Elton John is a gay rock singer and this fact has never been much of a secret. Even in the more homophobic days of the 1970’s, fans knew right away what Elton John’s mannerisms and flamboyant persona were about. Nobody cared because he was putting out some of the best rock songs of all-time. John’s style clearly owes a lot to Little Richard as well.
Favorite Song by Elton John: “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” is John’s epic 11 minute trip into the world of progressive rock. It’s the cornerstone of 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, which is already a highly ambitious work.
5. Doug Pinnick
Doug Pinnick was a gay black rock singer trying to make it in the experimental metal band King’s X back in the 80’s and 90’s, and he’s still touring and recording today. Despite alienating a chunk of his Christian fanbase after coming out in 1998, King’s X continue to make forward-thinking and engaging rock.
Favorite Song by Doug Pinnick: “Out of the Silent Planet” is a great summation of King’s X style. It’s heavy and knows when to rock, but it’s also melodic and fuses progressive elements of bands like Rush and Led Zeppelin.
6. Michael Stipe
As frontman of Athens college rock darlings REM, Stipe dominated the airwaves with hits like “Losing my Religion” and “Stand,” some of the earliest tracks from an indie rock group to get major airplay on radio and MTV. While Stipe was often evasive in regards to his sexuality, he came out in a 2007 interview.
Favorite Song by Michael Stipe: “Pilgrimage” is a great song from REM’s 1983 debut Murmur. Stipe’s sensitive and unassuming style as a frontman helped him stand out in the era of hair metal and excess.
7. Melissa Etheridge
One of the most prominent activists for LGBT rights, Melissa Etheridge came out as a lesbian in the early 90’s around the time her breakthrough Yes I Am album was released. She’s remained one of the flagship gay female artists in rock music, often playing folky and heartland-inspired rock that stood out in the 90’s grunge landscape of her heyday.
Favorite Song by Melissa Etheridge: “Come to My Window” remains Etheridge’s biggest hits and has become intertwined with its pro-gay message, often being used in movies and TV shows dealing with lesbian couples.
8. Freddie Mercury
While Mercury never 100% confirmed his homosexuality during his lifetime, it was something of an open secret within the rock community back when Queen were still on top of the world. His flamboyant stage persona and operatic vocals inspired countless rock singers, and he could command a wide variety of styles that fit Queen’s diverse music.
Favorite Song by Freddie Mercury: “Stone Cold Crazy” is the heaviest and fastest Queen song. In fact, most people probably wouldn’t even realize this is the same band that did “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Mercury sings like a banshee on this one.
- You Might Also Enjoy: Queen Albums Ranked
9. Fred Schneider
Fred Schneider is best known as the unmistakable male voice you hear in most songs by The B-52s, the classic Athens new wave group that were immediately adopted by the LGBT underground community back in the 70’s and 80’s. Indeed, The B-52s have featured four gay and bisexual members throughout their career, but it’s Schneider’s iconic and flamboyant voice that often acts as the band’s signature.
Favorite Song by Fred Schneider: “Dance this Mess Around” is one of the all-time great party songs of the new wave era, and frankly, it rocks as hard as a lot of the traditionally aggressive punk rock of the same era.
Gaahl is the stage name of one of black metal’s most infamous vocalists. Gaahl is an enigma in many ways, a man of many sides—former vocalist of one of the most extreme metal bands around, Gorgoroth, the Norwegian is also a fashion designer, a Satanist, a vegetarian, and a convicted criminal. Gaahl is one of the few gay voices in the black metal genre.
Favorite Song by Gaahl: “Incipit Satan” is the title track of Gorgoroth’s 2000 album, and it’s classic raw Norwegian black metal. Gaahl’s voice doesn’t even sound human, and in black metal, that’s a good thing.
11. Gary Floyd
Although Floyd’s name isn’t as well-known outside of underground punk rock circles, he was the iconic openly gay singer of Texas punk rockers The Dicks. Their music mixed aggression with funk and jazz influences, rare for punk rock at the time, and Floyd’s lyrics were always politically charged.
Favorite Song by Gary Floyd: “Pigs Run Wild” is a killer hardcore punk song from The Dicks’ 1983 debut. Floyd’s voice is totally unique for the genre as well.
12. Adam Lambert
Lambert got his start as one of the first openly gay contestants on the popular show American Idol. While he didn’t win the competition, I don’t think it bothers him at all considering he’s now the frontman for Queen, taking over for the late great Freddie Mercury.
Favorite Song by Adam Lambert: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as silly as this sounds, is my favorite thing I’ve heard from Adam Lambert. I know it can be polarizing, but I’ve always loved Christmas music.
13. Peter Grudzien
If the name Peter Grudzien is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. His 1974 album The Unicorn is considered a classic now, but upon release it was only pressed to 500 copies. To top it off, Grudzien’s tragic mental illness and generally bizarre music stripped his chances at fame and recognition.
Luckily, we have his great music to appreciate decades later. This is best described as psychedelic country rock with some folk elements, and while that might sound typical for the 70’s, Grudzien’s music was anything but typical.
Favorite Song by Peter Grudzien: “The Unicorn” is a great track and one of several from this album that openly deal with Peter’s life as a homosexual man.
14. Jonsi Birgisson
Icelandic post-rock pioneers Sigur Ros have been led by openly gay frontman Jonsi Birgisson since the group’s inception back in the 90’s. His high falsetto vocals and unintelligible lyrics often draw comparisons to Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, both groups dealing with tranquil and orchestral music within a rock framework.
Favorite Song by Jonsi Birgisson: “Milano” is the ten-minute centerpiece of 2005’s Takk, and it’s the perfect demonstration of the type of moving and beautiful rock Sigur Ros are capable of. Nobody sounds like these guys.
15. Rob Halford
If you’re a metal fan, Halford needs no introduction. For those unfamiliar, Rob Halford has been the frontman of heavy metal legends Judas Priest for over fifty years.
He’s always been known for his flamboyant personality and inhumanly high notes that are difficult for most males to reach, so his sexuality was something of an open secret in the community. I’ve seen Halford perform many times since becoming a metal fan years ago and the guy doesn’t appear to have aged a day since Priest’s heyday.
Favorite Song by Rob Halford: “Victim of Changes,” ironically a song Halford sings through the perspective of a straight man chasing a woman, is the best Judas Priest song and possibly the best metal song ever. It’s catchy, heavy, fast, dynamic, and Halford’s iconic vocals hold it all together.
Wrapping It Up
I hope you enjoyed my list of 15 of the best gay rock singers. While it’s true that other genres might have more obvious ties to the gay community, homosexuality has always been a non-issue in rock music, since it’s served as a safe place for outsiders since it’s beginnings. You’ll recognize some of these names and I hope you make time to check out the ones you don’t, because there’s a lot of great music out there.
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This article was written by Avery and edited by Michael.