Originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Music
On October 31, 2022, trailblazing singer-songwriter and activist Patrick Haggerty died at the age of 78. A few weeks earlier he suffered a stroke. He fronted Lavender Country which is widely believed to be the first openly gay country band. In 1973, they released their self-titled debut often cited as the first gay-themed country album.
Initially, there were only 1000 copies printed. The album later garnered interest from historians, music journalists, and record collectors. In 2014, the album was reissued by the Paradise of Bachelors label. Haggerty also embarked on a nationwide tour, which introduced a new generation to his music.
Paying tribute to Haggerty, Paradise of Bachelors co-founder Brendan Greaves wrote: “He was more than a hero; he was also a friend, mentor, comrade, and fatherly figure for us and our families. He was hilarious too; it was always an adventure spending time with him.”
In 2019, Lavender Country released their long-awaited sophomore album, Blackberry Rose. Three years later, the album received increased exposure when it was reissued by Don Giovanni Records.
“Patrick Haggerty was one of the funniest, kindest, bravest, and smartest people I ever met,” Don Giovanni Records stated. “He never gave up fighting for what he believed in, and those around him who he loved and took care of will continue that fight.”
As an openly gay artist in a conservative genre, simply creating music was a political statement, especially back in 1973 during the wake of Stonewall uprising. But Haggerty took it further by using his lyrics to address social issues.
One notable example is “Waltzing Will Trilogy” off the 1973 self-titled album. Haggerty directly calls out the “pack of straight white honky quacks” who administer shock treatment to homosexuals (“they call it mental hygiene but I call it psychic rape”). The tune also addresses how young gay men were beaten to death by police and sodomized by prison guards.
In the liner notes to Strong Love, a 2012 compilation of early gay artists, musician Richard Dworkin wrote: “One could argue that Patrick Haggerty … was as in-your-face shocking and transgressive as anything the [70s] would produce—up to and including the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys.”
RIP Patrick Haggerty (September 27, 1944-October 31, 2022)