So Long, Saffire; Hello, Gaye

After a few decades in the jazz business, Gaye Adegbalola of Saffire sheds her group for a solo gig. She tells Advocate.com: "I've known I was a lesbian longer than I knew that I was black."

BY Michele Kort

June 17 2009 11:00 PM ET

SAFFIRE 02 X390 (PUBLICITY) | ADVOCATE.COM

You recorded both those songs with gay piano player Roddy Barnes on your solo album Neo-Classic Blues in 2004. But I guess you'd call your 2007 album Gaye Without Shame your real coming-out album, right? Hell yes! It's audiobiographical. I was out of the closet, but not out of the room for years, because I was a schoolteacher here in conservative Virginia. But my bandmates were so supportive, I just stepped on out there. The first song on that album is "Queer Blues," and there are a couple of love duets with women. Part of my mission was to take blues to the queer audience, and queer issues to the blues audience. Heartbreak is heartbreak -- it doesn't have any color or agenda or age. And love is love. I'm proud to say I was nominated for a blues music award for the album -- like the country music awards, but very tiny.

Are you in a relationship now? I was in an 18-year relationship, and we just split up. We worked hard to fan the flames, but the thrill was gone. And here I am at 65, and it's hard to be starting over. Just like with Saffire, it's hard to conclude that journey. You can put in the article that I'm looking -- I don't have any problem with age, or with black or white. My former partner was 21 years younger; I am truly young at heart. Bring 'em on!

By the way, is Adegbalola your given or married surname? When I was married and living in New York, I really fell in love with the Yoruba religion -- it's kind of kin to Santeria [the Caribbean-originated set of beliefs that actually merges Yoruba religion with Catholic and Native American traditions]. One of the priests gave my husband that name; it means the king is coming into his crown. It means I'm reclaiming my royalty, that's a rough translation.

Your royal name certainly fits with your Nefertiti hairdo! I have wanted to change it, but it's really kind of like my trademark. I even decided I was going to get a wig -- which is contradictory to my whole natural thing -- so I went to the one wig store in town. But it was closed.

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