My LGBTQi+ Pride Playlist 2021
By: Karlton A. Armistad
[Dedicated to the Late Carlton A. Ford, miss you more than You Know Andre’]
Pride for Me, has always been believing that anyone no matter where you are from in the world deserve to love whom they love without fear of persecution, judgement or death. And I lived with the fear of being murdered for being a member of the LGBTQi+ community for most of my life and had to flee my nation of birth, a small Caribbean island where the unjust laws of Buggery remain enshrined in the both the culture and the legal system to this day.
I was shot at and almost killed by people I had never harmed or even spoken to, because I was seen as different, and it was not until I moved to the United Kingdom, did I feel like I had a chance at a life where I was a person and laws existed to protect Me & my Human Rights.
Music freed me, supported me, comforted me, cried with me and helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. It also brought some incredible LGBTQi+ people into my life that remain a part of my unique tapestry, so as I share my Pride Playlist; note I am for the 1st time in 35 years, offering a glimpse into my very soul. As for Me, these songs signal a progressive path to our never-ending struggle as a Community.
My Pride Play List:
1. ‘I Am What I Am’ by Gloria Gaynor [originally introduced in the Tony award-winning Broad way musical La Cage aux Folles, August 21,1983]:
This huge anthem for me represented a crying out for acceptance, tolerance & self-love, in a time where as members of the LGBTQi+ community, we were marginalised and seen as spreaders of the HIV/Aids Pandemic which began in 1983, and as at 2020, has claimed some 1 million + lives. Gloria Gaynor’s soulful and rich voice, helped Me as well as many other members of the Community acknowledge that ‘life ain’t worth a damn, till You can shout out, I am what I am’.
2. ‘I Want to Break Free’ by Queen [featuring the Legendary Freddie Mercury, released1984]:
Where do I begin with this iconic piece of music history? Like ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ released the year before Freddie and Queen entered my life and has never left. I remember dancing to this in my living room back where I was born, and my Mom enjoying every move I made. Then almost 2 decades later working on an amateur production called ‘Cinderfella’, shaking my little ‘tush’ to the full entertainment of a packed 80 people strong crowded Hall. Dressed in a very fetching Fairy-godmother outfit, I stole the show while helping ‘Cinderfella’ get ready for the Ball. Freddie lived his life as fluidly as the times allowed but a ‘reckoning of sorts’ was already ignited by the Stonewall riots in 1969, that gave the 70s and the decades to follow its challenging yet upward struggle towards equality.
3. ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor released 1978:
At the highlight of the Disco (the music genre most linked to the LGBTQi+ identity) era, this Soul Diva released this piece of musical genius and forever changed my life with it. I have listened to many versions and apart from Gloria’s, only one other rendition moves me like hers’ and its done by a Jamaican LGBTQi+ Singer/Songwriter Diana King. Diana Ross also does a well-received version but the above performers have been more accepting of the LGBTQi+ community than Ms. Ross, even though for many of Us, we always have and we always will love her for her very talented and unique sound.
4. ‘I’m Coming Out’ by Diana Ross released 1980:
Simply iconic has to be how I begin to describe both this track and the incomparable talent that is Diana Ross. Every bone in my body loves this track and at the height of the eighties, Diana Ross ruled supreme after leaving the all-female group ‘Diana Ross & the Supremes’ in 1970 to chart her solo success. Released on her self-titled album ‘Diana’, along with ‘Upside Down’ & ‘Old Piano’ which became hit singles across the world and cemented Diana as a ‘gay icon’, a title she was not aware she had been given says Nile Rodgers, the song’s writer. For me the lyrics ‘I want the world to know, I’ve got to let it show’ kept my heart going and because of this its’ on my Pride playlist.
5. ‘Supermodel’ by RuPaul [born RuPaul Andre Charles 17.11.60] released in 1993. No LGBTQi+ Playlist can ever claim to come correct, without a few ‘Mamma Ru’ tracks. We all know RuPaul as an American Drag Queen, LGBTQi+ activist, entrepreneur, actor, model, singer, songwriter, author and creator of the now iconic franchise that is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. I will also recommend ‘Covergirl’ & ‘Sissy that Walk’ as 2 other notable tracks for a ‘gay old’ Pride, but the collection of music from Ru, is very much a pillar of ‘queer’ culture and more than the 3 tracks I have mentioned will be played and replayed at every Pride event held this year and each year after.
6. ‘Vogue’ by Madonna [released March 27, 1990 on her 2nd soundtrack album I’m Breathless]:
As far as individuals that support the LGBTQi+ community goes Madonna and her musical/film legacy, helped so many queer youths find their path. She is so much so a part of our culture that a whole genre of how we showcase our talents is dedicated to this track and its Title called ‘Voguing’. Now inspired lyrics like ‘ladies with and attitude, fellas that are in the mood…. Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it…Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it; Vogue.
7. ‘Queen of the Night’ by Whitney Houston [released 1992 on the Bodyguard Soundtrack Album]:
Can I please state I know that this was not the main track from the album and that Whitney’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” breathed life into the Film, but this track was my go-to Diva-move track as exuded a raw sexual energy I had never felt before. It’s a Pride Playlist track for me because I gave my 1st and only amateur drag performance to this track and was able to woo a very wonderful audience with my statuesque 6ft 9inches tall amazon/glamazon finish; in 5inch knee-high white leather heels and a tuck that made all the other performers say ‘damn, where did you put that thing, honestly’ I am so thankful for the life and work of Whitney that she and Bobbie-Christina will always hold a special place in my Heart.
8. ‘YMCA’ by the Village People [released from their album Cruisin in 1978]:
At the end of the 70s, as Disco was on its way out and Rn’B, Hip-Hop and a new sound called Rap was being birthed in House parties and sound clashes, of Chicago & New York City the ‘queer’ community united under and a Native Indian, a Police Officer, a Cowboy, a Geek, Army/Navy Officer & a Construction Worker, and what a village they created. Every queer person, and a few weddings still boogie to this anthem, and even a former American president, appropriated the track as part of their rallying cry. He was sternly rebuked by a hilarious sketch from Saturday Night Live (SNL) which clearly asked that he ‘cease and desist’. Other queer anthems by the Village People include ‘Macho Man’, ‘In The Navy’ & ‘Go West’.
9. ‘It’s Raining Men’ by The Weather Girls [released in 2007 on their album titled Maxi Tubes Anne’es 70, Volume 7]:
2007 saw the Queer community though loving the sunshine, wanting to it rain; and the Vocal duo known as The Weather Girls did not disappoint. They gave us a shower so special, a few us never left outside as the rain just kept showering us with tall, blond, dark and lean men, which made our temperatures rise and left us all soaking wet. If this is not a Pride Playlist track, I don’t know what is?
10. ‘Born this Way’ by Lady Gaga [released in 2011on her album of the same name]:
In 2005 the world was in heat for a new pop singer known as Lady Gaga, her outfits and performances then and moving forward were to wow stadiums across the world, and in 2011 she released the long-awaited album ‘Born This Way’, with the 1st single titled the same. It was an instant ‘queer’ folk mega song, with no club or bar not belting out this Pride playlist track over and over. The song shouts out for a new level of acceptance for members of the LGBTQi+ community, as who we are is in our DNA. The track continues to inspire Me today.
11. ‘Let There Be Love’ by Christina Aguilera [released in 2012 on her album titled Lotus]:
Now there are some that will say acknowledging this track as a Pride Playlist track over Christina’s ‘Dirty’, ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ or the phenomenal ‘Candy Man’ is a questionable choice, but this track always seems to calm me down and centre me and remind me to love me a bit more so someone else might see the good in me and choose to love me better. I can’t say for certain it invokes the same feelings in all queer folk, but I love me some ‘Christina’ on a challenging day, so I am reminded that being strong isn’t a shortcoming. I was playing this track while preparing my Roast dinner and had it on repeat, so that the smile on my face stayed.
The One Song that Must Never Be Played at Any Pride/LGBTQi+ Event:
12. ‘Boom Bye-Bye’ by Buju Banton [released on his 2001 The Early Years: 1990-1995 Album]:
As a queer person; in the early 2000’s, you were in some way, shape or form aware of this track and the Jamaican Artiste Buju Banton. The song and lyrics openly promoted the killing of LGBTQi+ people because of their sexual identity and allegedly indirectly led to Jamaican queer folk being beaten, burnt out of their homes and killed as this was believed to be not the way any Jamaican should be allowed to live.
I still, to this day feel very weary of attending cultural events such as Notting Hill Carnival, and certain Drum and Bass raves, as the song comes on and I see people who may not understanding the words and the songs meaning, dancing to it as queer folk.
The Artiste himself has faced his own demons after the fact, and I don’t stand in judgement of him, but can only hope with the evolution of queer culture since 2010, and that his time spent inside the American penal system, has allowed him to take a more progressive view/stance regarding the LGBTQi+ community. Still I wish to never hear this loaded call to kill/hurt and intimidate queer folk anywhere near civilised society.
There are a few more tracks to my queer collection but I have to savour those, and maybe if this piece is inspiring, you make contact and we can talk about yours and see if we have a few ones similar. Much love, my Vocal Community.
[6th June, 2021]
About the Creator
Carlton A. Armistad is the pseudonym for Andrew R. Little. I prefer writing under this as it allows me to look at any body of work I complete separate to my personal day-to-existence, and safeguards my relationships and family.