Robin Thicke’s 2007 single “Lost Without U” made him the first male Caucasian artist to top Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop chart since George Michael’s “One More Try” in 1988, but that’s just the tip of Thicke’s tight connection with the gay community. Currently promoting his fourth album, Sex Therapy, as the opening act on Alicia Keys’s Freedom Tour, the 33-year-old neo-soul singer-songwriter explains why he’ll happily ruin dinner to defend his gay friends — even those hip-hop chest-thumpers still in the closet.
The Advocate: How conscious are you of your gay fan base? Because although babies aren’t technically made during our process, we also enjoy baby-making music.
Robin Thicke: Well, maybe I’m inspiring some adoptions. [Laughs] As long as my music promotes love and intimacy, it’s all good. You never really know who likes you until someone comes up and says they like your music, but I’m always surprised when anyone likes it.
You’ve previously toured with Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé, both artists with huge gay followings. Are we a good audience?
Oh, absolutely. Who dances with more love and passion than the gay audience? They’re so much fun.
Gay blogs can be vicious, but they generally have very sweet things to say about you.
I know, and I’m very thankful, honored, and blessed. Every once in a while I’ll hear that Perez has said nice things about me, but I don’t think my people would send it to me if he ever said anything bad.
How does it feel to be an object of lust for some gay men?
It’s absolutely flattering, without question. I’m very vain, so I’ll take lust from wherever it comes.
Your father, Alan Thicke, is an actor best known as Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, and your mother, Gloria Loring, is an actress-singer best known as Liz Chandler on Days of Our Lives. Growing up with both parents in the entertainment industry, what was your earliest exposure to gay people?
My father’s agent was gay, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Probably from the time I was 7 or 8 years old, he was there every day, hanging out at the house and on my dad’s set. He was a wonderful man, so that was a great influence for me right from the beginning. Some of my mom’s best friends were also gay. When the AIDS epidemic hit in the ’80s, my mom lost one of her very best friends, who was also a close friend of the family. Even though I was very young, I had to understand what that was all about and why he passed. It’s a lot for a 10-year-old boy to try to figure out, but I have a very open heart because of those circumstances.
Your first son is due this May. How do you plan to instill in him those same values of love and acceptance?
That’s easy. Love is easy to instill; it’s just hard to practice. We can all lose our tempers and our focus when our insecurities get the best of us, but it’s easy to preach and teach love and open-mindedness.
Who’s your best gay friend?
Probably somebody who won’t admit it. [Laughs] That’s the catch-22 of the hip-hop and R&B music world: There’s so much bravado and chest-thumping, you can’t help but be afraid to come out and be yourself. I actually have a couple friends in that world I’m wondering about right now.
How can the homophobia in that world be diminished?
I really don’t know. It’s this religion thing that’s so mind-boggling. Religion is an epidemic, you know what I mean? How do you justify what people have in their minds because of a book that they read — that your life has to be a certain way or you’re damned? It’s very difficult to understand how some people can be so open-minded in some realms but so closed off in others.
How do you personally handle the homophobia you encounter?
I’ve always been the guy at the table who will fight these people until the bitter end. I’m a fighter — maybe too much sometimes. Sometimes I ruin dinner.