Mainstream pop music has always been brimming with LGBT talent -- picture Little Richard with his wild makeup and pompadour in the 1950s, or George Michael in the mid-'80s crooning about careless whispers. Yet, these stars were closeted during their heyday. Times, thankfully, have changed. While many celebrities still remain tight-lipped about their love lives, a growing number of artists in the music world are increasingly living out in the open, making the 57th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony another one for the queer record books. Nearly a dozen out musicians, in addition to several considered icons, are participating as either performers or nominees in Sunday's ceremony, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
Let's take a look at some highlights.
Madonna and Lady Gaga -- Yes, Both of Them One of the night's many exciting performers just happens to be our patron saint Madonna, who will likely break out a new tune from her upcoming Rebel Heart album. A champion of the LGBT community long before it was fashionable, Madonna has never missed a chance to speak out against LGBT discrimination, donate millions to LGBT causes, and always push the envelope in our favor. Of course, longtime lesbian fans remember the rumored dalliances with comedian Sandra Bernhard and models Ingrid Casares and Jenny Shimizu.
In a rare aligning of the stars, Lady Gaga will also perform. On the same night. As Madonna. Gaga will duet with legendary crooner Tony Bennett, with whom she's recently released the fantastic Cheek To Cheek, an album of American standards. Gaga is herself bisexual, which she told Barbara Walters in 2009, and in 2013 she affirmed it again to Bravo's Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, assuring the host that she "dips in the lady pond."
Two Best New Artists Lesbian country singer Brandy Clark also performs Sunday night, and in many ways, her breakthrough is this year's most exciting particularly because she works in a genre yet to embrace LGBT artists. Clark, nominated for both Best Country Album and Best New Artist, is single-handedly redefining what a country star can be, and she's doing it by doing what county musicians are best known for: telling excellent stories. The songs on 12 Stories are filled with pot-smoking moms, lust-filled (heterosexual) affairs, and other dramas, all told with sharp wit and keen detail. "I don't write songs for straight people or gay people or black people or white people," Clark has said. "I write songs for people."
British singer Sam Smith is also slated to perform and is nominated in no less than six categories, including what the Grammys call its four General Field categories (Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year). He's one of only 10 artists in Grammy history to pull it off. He's also, at 22, the second youngest to do so. (A 20-year-old Mariah Carey still holds first place.) Smith, who came out last May, was linked for several months to American model Jonathan Zeizel. The two met on the set of the video for Smith's "Like I Can." The two split in January, which is OK with Smith. He has told the press he finds songwriting inspiration in heartbreak.
Saying Something Inspirational The hit song "Say Something," a collaborative effort between Christina Aguilera and musical duo A Great Big World, is nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. A Great Big World singer Chad Vaccarino came out last year in a touching video in which he also talks about living with MS. Vaccarino is downright inspirational. Watch the video here.
Flexible and Fluid: Sia and St. Vincent Australian singer-songwriter Siais nominated in several categories for her song "Chandelier." Sia acknowledged her "flexible" sexuality to fans in 2013 by tweeting, "I'm queer. I don't really identify as a lesbian because I've dated predominantly men. But I've certainly dated women." The sassy singer was in a relationship with Le Tigre's JD Samson from 2008 to 2011. She's now married to documentary filmmaker Erik Anders Lang.
Singer-guitarist Annie Clark is the mastermind behind art-rock sensation St. Vincent. Her fourth solo album, St. Vincent, is nominated for Best Alternative Album. In 2014 Clark told Rolling Stone she believes in "gender fluidity and sexual fluidity." She is rumored to have dated Portlandia star and Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. However, she prefers not to discuss her private life. "I don't have anything to hide," she said in the same interview, "but I'd rather the emphasis be on music."
Chances Are... Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album nominee Johnny Mathis, now79, shot to stardom in the late 1950s with the hits "Chances Are," "Wonderful! Wonderful!" and "It's Not for Me to Say." Mathis came out in 1982 during an interview. But you won't find him waving banners. "I want everybody to feel as important as they deserve to be as a person, but I don't want this big ballyhoo," he said in a 2014 interview. "I think it's appreciated more that way. I take a very quiet, low road to all that."
A Jazz Pioneer Innovative pianist Fred Hersch, nominated in several jazz categories, is a veteran of the New York contemporary jazz scene. He's also a gay man. In the early 1990s, Hersch boldly went public with his AIDS diagnosis. In 2008 he became gravely ill with pneumonia, spending two months in a coma, even developing AIDS-related dementia. His recovery and return to recording have been near-miraculous. In a candid 2010 interview with The New York Times, Hersch recalled his early years as a closeted musician, one who considered hiding his boyfriend's toothbrush when legendary jazzman Stan Getz came to his apartment. "That's when I realized, What the hell am I doing?" he recalled. "This is my home. This is my life."
Blues for a New Day Out singer-guitarist Ruthie Foster's album Promise of a Brand New Day is nominated for Best Blues Album. Foster, a Grammy favorite, enlisted queer musician Meshell Ndegeocello to produce the album, which features a guest spot by lesbian folksingerToshi Reagon.
Thumbs Up to John Waters Beloved gay film director John Waters is nominated in the Best Spoken Word Album category for his hilarious travelogue Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. Waters says he's always been out, and, in fact, thinks the idea of coming out is "square."
News Flash: LGBT People Are in Musical Theater How redundant is it to point out there are a slew of gay folks nominated in the Best Musical Theater Album category? Of course there are, including Neil Patrick Harris and the rest of the cast of the Broadway smash Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as Cheyenne Jackson and his West Side Story cast mates.