Script for April 2001, QMH:
There are a lot of different ways I could introduce my first artist. He's only 26 years old and already has had quite a varied career. He got involved in show business at the age of 5 and here's a short clip of him singing on a children's record the song "I love my pot belly bear:
I love my pot belly bear (1979)
Well, I can think of adult gay singers who might be singing to their bears. But, that was from 1979 and a few years later, at age 10, he and a little girl named Jen Chapin, who was the daughter of Harry Chapin, sang "get back home" on a Cabbage Patch Kids album. It went like this:
Get back home (1984)
Here is an interview clip of the artist describing his music career as a child.
I used to sing constantly when I was like 3, 4, 5 years old and I was discovered at my brother's bar mitzva when I was 5 and ah put into this song competition with my other brothers, a jewish song festival and we won first prize and the engineer there um was doing a record there called "pot bellied bear songs and stories" and I auditioned for it and I got the part and um after that I just started doing a lot of jingle work, I did like over 400 jingles for television and did different characters, voices, like a character on Gem & the Holograms and Cabbage Patch Kids and I sang backups for Diana Ross and Jello Pudding Pops with Bill Cosby and stuff like that (laughs) crazy stuff like that but it was really good training for me so um
Okay, it's a big jump to where he is today. His name is Ari Gold and he's an up and coming singer/songwriter from New York City. I'll let him describe his music.
Hi my name is Ari Gold and my CD is a self-titled CD called "Ari Gold" and um It's basically ten love songs um and the style I would say is R&B ah soul a little um dance house and ah and pop um and um influenced by Sade and Madonna and Mary J Blige and Chaka Chan and Stevie Wonder
And his debut album is excellent. It is indeed smooth R&B, with all the influences he mentioned, with a touch of boy band thrown in. And to top it off HX magazine has named him one of the ten hottest gay men in Manhatten. You can judge that for yourself at his website, www.arigold.com, which is just packed full of information, photos and sound clips.
I asked Ari to tell me about the first track on the CD, which is called "Should I Get Over You"
Well I know the first track "should I get over you" is actually happened happened happened on gay pride I met this boy and very scandalously we um were outside and we um kind of um did a little something something in outside in a little corner no one could see but ah but it was very scandalous (laughs) so there's a line in the song that says "we went outside, found a place where we could hide" so, that's true (laughs)
Should I get over you (2000)
And Ari Gold is not afraid to use male to male pronouns in his songs. This is my favorite song from the album, "write me a love song"
Write me a love song (2000)
Again, that was Ari Gold, from his self-titled CD. I met him a couple years ago and got to hear a demo tape of his songs, and that last one, "write me a love song" really made an impression on me, I'm glad the CD is finally out so we all can enjoy it. Oh, and I asked Ari to record a promo for my show, and I'm pleased that he put a little of his personality in it:
Spotlight Feature: Tom Wilson Weinberg
My spotlight artist for tonight is singer/songwriter Tom Wilson Weinberg. This artist is special to me. When I first came out I was living in Norfolk, Virginia, and was active in the local gay & lesbian group. This was the group that produced the gay newspaper, ran the gay switchboard, had the social functions and essentially did it all. In September of 1979 we held a conference and for entertainment brought down from Philadelphia Tom Wilson, as he was known then. He and his lover John were even my house guests that weekend. His first album had just been released that year, and he was to perform various numbers from it. I had really not been out very long and this was my very first exposure to music with openly gay lyrics. So, considering the size of my queer collection these days, I've got to thank Tom for opening my eyes to how music could speak to our community.
Tom's style might be described as pop cabaret meets off-broadway, and you'll see why as we go. Tom's first album was called "Gay Name Game," and it was one of the earliest albums by an openly gay male. Besides the title song, which recalled many of the famous gay & lesbians of the past, other songs dealt with relationships, religion, and even Anita Bryant. I contacted Tom recently and he graciously agreed to record answers to many questions about his career. I asked him to describe how the album "Gay Name Game" came about.
In the late 70s I was performing songs that I had written locally in Philadelphia where I was living at the time. There was a gay coffeehouse, and I played there regularly and I also played at a couple of other coffeehouses, one in New York and one in Baltimore. And, at a certain point I had a collection of original songs that seemed broad enough and interesting enough to put on a record. I didn't really have any particular support or backing for it, I just had the energy and willingness to do it.
The most famous song by Tom came from this album, so I wasn't surprised at the answer when I asked him what song from the album has the most special meaning for him, and which was his favorite.
Well, if I answered that question right after the album came out in 1979 I would probably have said, all of them. Even listening to it now, which I did to prepare for this conversation, I like it, I like the album, I like the songs, the humor. Now, I would have to say that the song that is most special to me is "Lesbian Seagull". At the time that I wrote it it was kind of a novelty and a rather bizarre idea. It was based on a government study that I read about in the New York Times. The Federal government funded a study of seagull behavior off the coast of California and they determined that female couples bonded, built nests together, migrated, came back to the nests, hatched eggs. I think there must have been the involvement of a male seagull somewhere along the line but these were female couples that hatched the eggs, and nurtured the young and stayed together as pairs, cause they banded them and identified them. They stayed together as pairs for many years and I thought that extremely romantic so I wrote this ballad, and many years later, 1997, the song ended up in a film, "Beavis and Butthead Do America" and it was just a fluke but it had been played on David Lettermen's show and this guy Mike Judge who was the creator of Beavis and Butthead heard it and decided that he wanted to use it in this film that he was developing. And it was a great little boost for me because I earned some money which one does not do too often in this field and the song went on to the CD soundtrack, Geffen Records, went platinum ended up in a couple of Warner Chapel books, anthologies, so I can't help but name that the most meaningful song.
Here is Tom singing "lesbian seagull"
TWW - lesbian seagull (1979)
Tom didn't mention that in the movie the song was sung by Engelbert Humperdink. In 1982 Tom released a second solo album, this one entitled "All American Boy." It was more of a homemade effort, and contained more songs about gay relationships and one song, "Take Good Care of Yourself" that was kind of a precursor about the coming AIDS epidemic.
Tom's work really started attracting attention in the mid-80s when he put together a musical revue, called, appropriately, "The Ten Percent Revue." It included new songs and many of his older material, performed by a cast of two men and two women. It was an immediate success, opening in Boston, and then moving to Provincetown for a 10-week summer run, where it attracted even more notice. According to Tom, it's had over 50 productions in various cities, including one in Houston. Some of the gay & lesbian artists who have performed in the production over the years have included Paul Phillips of Romanovsky & Phillips, Elliot Pilshaw and Jon Arterton, both early members of the Flirtations, and Lisa Koch ,and also Lea Delaria has served as it's director. I asked Tom if he had any special memories of a particular "Ten Percent Revue" performance.
Yes, what a great question. There is a particular "Ten Percent Revue" performance that I'll never forget. Most of the material was funny, and of course that's what we were going for, to give people a good time and to have fun and to make political points in a humorous way. In the summer of 86 we were performing in Provincetown and on a particular day the news came down the Supreme Court had made their decision in Hardwick VS Bowers, the notorious Georgia case. The Supreme Court essentially said that same gender partners do not have a right to privacy of sexual conduct even in their own homes. We were devastated by the news and that night when we did our performance we stopped the show at a particular point and one of our cast members, Jenifer Firestone, told the audience about the decision. And then we went right back into the show and continued continued with it with one of our more serious songs that felt relevant to the moment and people were crying we were crying and I'll just never forget it. It just gave the show a certain immediacy that was exciting and very vital. And then over the next few days I wrote a song about the whole business. It was called "And The Supremes" a spoof on the Supreme Court and on that dreadful anti-sex decision and we put it in the show a few weeks later and it remained in the show and continues to be performed whenever the show is performed.
"And The Supremes" (1987)
That was Jenifer Firestone from the cast singing lead on "And The Supremes" from "Ten Percent Revue." By 1992 Tom Wilson Weinberg had written enough material for a second revue, and called this one "Get Used To It." While it didn't reach the audience of the first revue in many ways it's was a better production and it's material was more mature. It contained one of my favorite of Tom's songs, which was also on his first solo album. It's called "My leviticus". I asked Tom to tell us about it.
Religion has always been kind of a touchy subject for me, and I continue to be pretty suspicious of organized religion, and I've dealt with it quite a bit in my work. This was the first song in which I commented on religion and in particular the rather harsh rules in Leviticus. Harsh is an understatement. I took and when we later used this song in "Ten Percent Revue" we read that portion of the Bible, I wanted to put it on the LP but I was talked out of it by the producers. I wanted to have that Bible portion read because the song is a direct response to the Bible quote. I just turn everything around from anti-gay to pro-gay.
Here is a little of "my leviticus", as sung by Brad Whitaker:
My leviticus (1992)
I asked Tom what song from the show "Get Used To It" was most special to him.
The material in "Get Used To It" is very political and a little more serious than "Ten Percent Revue" and yet one of the lighter numbers called "Breaking The Penal Code With You" is my personal favorite from the show. It takes us on a little tour of states that remain on the anti-sodomy list and a couple decides that they're going to go to each state that has laws against queer sex and do it.
breaking the penal code with you (1992)
This brings us up to 1994, please listen to a little of this song.
NYCGMCCC - Before stonewall (1994)
That song was called "Before Stonewall" and came from a various artists CD titled "Don't Mess With Mary." I asked Tom to tell us about that project.
Well, I was thinking a lot about Stonewall 25. The 25th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising was 1994 and I had written a couple of songs that I wanted to try to arrange in a new way so I went to the people who were organizing the official Stonewall festivities in New York and I told them about my ideas and they encouraged me to go ahead and present them with some tapes. So I arranged a couple of songs. One was a number from "Ten Percent Revue" called "Safe Sex Slut" one was I guess it was also from "Ten Percent Revue" yes, "Before Stonewall" and I wrote a title song, "Don't Mess With Mary" and I wrote another song called "Bricks and Bottles" which is about the stonewall riots and I invited a variety of performers to present this material and my friend and colleague Wayne Barker once again arranged and produced the material, and we had a terrific singer, Jan Tilley, she sang "Bricks and Bottles". We had the NYC Gay Mens Chorus Chamber Choir sing "Before Stonewall" and we had a drag diva by the name of Tina Benez sing the title tune, "Don't Mess With Mary"
I'll also like to share just a little of Jan Tilley singing "Bricks & Bottles" from that CD.
Jan Tilley - bricks & bottles (1994)
Again, that was from the CD "Don't Mess With Mary," issued to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. To bring us up to date, I asked Tom to describe his latest work.
And Tom replies, my current project is a musical called "Hick Replies" I've been working on it for a few years and we've had a couple of workshop productions and some readings in New York. And it's a four character musical and it's the first time that I've tried to tell a story as opposed to a musical revue. This is a book musical and there are four characters, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lorraina Hickock, her intimate and dear friend of 30 years, FDR, and J Edgar Hoover. And in the piece I'm really focusing on the relationship between the two women. But Franklin and Edgar Hoover play an important part in the piece. And I'm not trying to be historically accurate down to every detail but I am wanting to be respectful to the characters and the situation. We are going to have another reading of the work, I've been working with a terrific director in New York and we're going to stage a reading in June and hope to find some support, a producer, some investors, a theater, an angel, a magician, someone to help us move this piece forward so that we can get it on the stage.
I want to thank Tom Wilson Weinberg for the interview and for his contribution to gay music, and I couldn't resist asking him to do a promo for this show.
QMH promo by TWW
You can see photos of Tom and the other artists on tonight's show, and also links to their websites on my website. Once again, it's at www.queermusicheritage.com
Dave Hall Interview
My last artist for tonight's show is Dave Hall. I think he's one of the brightest stars in the gay music field today. He's certainly one of the most prolific, he's released 3 CDs since 1997 and I think they are all very good. I'm fortunate to have also been able to get Dave to record some comments about his music, so I'll start off my letting him describe his music for you.
My musical style, gosh, people have called it different things. The first record they called folk rock, my second record they called folk pop. I'm not sure what people are calling this one. It's pretty folky ah, but there's classical in it, too. I've done a couple of Bach interpretations. I think whatever I do stylistically, I shift around a lot, does have definitely an American Anglo Celtic Folk sort of influence on it.
Dave's first album, from 1997, was called "Playin' The Man." In his writing Dave often uses the premis of being in an imaginary conversation with someone, and he refers to this technique when telling about the song "his name is joe"
"His Name Is Joe" I guess you would call my coming out song. That was another imagined conversation, this time with someone I might run into on the street after having not seeing them for many years, and having them ask the inevitable question, are you married, are you seeing anyone, and you know the answer is yes, and his name is Joe.
His name is joe (1997)
Dave Hall's second album was called "Places" and he got two nominations for it at the GLAMAs, the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards. It was released in 1999 and I asked Dave to tell us about "Biff & Tony's wedding," my favorite track from that album.
"Biff 'N Tony's Wedding " is from my second CD, "Places." Ah, that's based on an actual wedding that my partner and I Joe attended, um, my partner Joe and I attended ah, it was the first gay wedding I'd been to. And I was really struck by what a beautiful ceremony it was, what a great party it was ah, and for a long time I felt that I wanted to write about it I wasn't sure exactly how, and then what I did was pretty much was just write exactly what happened the fun stuff, the nerves, um you know the slight subtle conflicts between family members, um and what I think what people find interesting about the song, and it got a lot of radio play around the country, meaning that you know heterosexual people seemed to have got into it as much as gay and lesbian people, um, it was just like any other wedding, it was just with all the craziness and attention and joy, so I'm kind of glad that people got into it and people played it on the radio. I thought it was a way for straight people to you know get a glimpse into gay and lesbian life, in kind of a fun way.
Biff & tony's wedding (1999)
Dave rarely does any material he did
not write, but also on the "Places" album he sings a fantastic
version of the old folk song "Shenandoah," it's just gorgeous.
And Dave has a new album out. It's called "True" and is
perhaps a little mellower, a little more acoustic than his first two.
I think it's excellent. And, once again, he doesn't shy away from
openly gay subject matter and on this album he has a song that deals
with gays and religion. It's called "God Is Wide" and I'll
let him tell you about it.
We'll get to the song in just a moment. I want to thank you all for tuning in to the show, and I especially want to Ari Gold, Tom Wilson Weinberg and Dave Hall for the interviews. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, including maybe where to track them down, I'd be glad to help, so please email me. This is JD Doyle for Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage. As promised, here is Dave Hall singing "God Is Wide."
God is wide (2000)