translate

Back to the Show

Songs ABOUT Drag Queens
The Script

Kinsey Sicks - Everybody Lover a Drag Queen (2002)

This is JD Doyle and this will be, well, kind of an off-the-wall edition of Queer Music Heritage. The appropriate opening song was from the Kinsey Sicks and their 2002 album "Sicks in the City," and was called "Everybody Loves a Drag Queen." And this month it's all about drag queens, and I mean that in the most lyrical way. The songs were selected not because they were by drag queens, but because they were ABOUT them. Though of course it could be drag queens themselves doing the singing, and that is the case for Part 1. In the other two segments you'll hear other folks singing about drag queens, mostly straight artists and the viewpoints will be all over the place.

But for this hour it's all drag queens, and the next song comes from a renown troop, called the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, which was founded by Charles Ludlam. This was quite avant-garde fare, and in a 1991 show called "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Stephen Pell sang "Thank God He Made Me a Drag Queen."

Hunchback of Notre Dame - Thank God He Made Me a Drag Queen (1991)
Hedda Lettuce - Drag Queen Blues (2005)

   

And that was one of, I think, our most talented drag personalities, Hedda Lettuce, who sang "Drag Queen Blues." And this next song was inspired by the spirit of the drag queens at Stonewall. It was written for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall in 1994. From a CD commemorating the celebration in New York City, Tina Benez sings the title track "Don't Mess With Mary."

Tina Benez - Don't Mess With Mary (1994)
Crystal Balls - Who You Calling a Drag Queen? (1994)
Sister Queen - Let Me Be Your Drag Queen (1995)

The song by Tinez Benez was from 1994, as was "Who You Calling a Drag Queen?" by Crystal Balls, and from the next year, from France, was Sister Queen, who gave us "Let Me Be Your Drag Queen."

I'll be back to some more dance music later, but now I want to give you some pure drag history. Ray Bourbon was a prolific performer and recording artist for several decades. He started releasing his kind of recitation style comedy on 78 rpm records in the 1930's and in the 1950's released a slew of LPs. On the second album of that series, called "You're Stepping on My Eyelashes" was the track "Back in Drag Again."

Ray Bourbon - Back in Drag Again (1950s)
Lee Sutton - The Lady Is a Fake (1968)
Charles Pierce - Want to Buy an Illusion / One of the Boys (1987)

And in that set there were three of the greats of our drag heritage. After Ray Bourbon I played a song by UK female impersonator Lee Sutton. "The Lady Is a Fake" was from his 1968 LP "A Near Miss." And from a video from 1987 Charles Pierce sang "Want to Buy an Illusion" and "One of the Boys." He really didn't sing much, so that was unusual but his comedy was incredible.

Danny LaRue was one of the most famous female impersonators in England, and he released a lot of recordings but this next song is from a TV appearance. In it he's "The Girl With a Little Bit Extra." And from there we'll go to a brand new track, which I think is so well done. It's a parody of "Ladies Who Lunch" re-titled "Ladies in Drag."

Danny LaRue - The Girl with a Little Bit Extra (1970s)
Jinkx Monsoon - The Ladies in Drag (2013)

I just love that. The latest, and very deserving, winner of RuPaul's Drag Race was Jinkx Monsoon, and I was so pleased she won, and more pleased to see a video of her singing that last song at the recent GLAAD awards. Of course she took the Broadway classic "Ladies Who Lunch," made famous by Elaine Stritch, and made it about "Ladies in Drag."

I want to slip in a comment that I have a large collection of recordings by drag queens, and I found it isn't actually that common for them to sing about being a drag queen. I think the reason is they are playing a personna of a woman and that would somehow cross the line.

Not afraid of crossing any lines is Jackie Beat, another very well-known drag artist. She's released several CDs of her twisted parodies of songs we all know. And it's unusual for them to be ones I can actually play on the radio, due to the language, which you may get a hint of by just the title of the CD "Put It In Me," from 2005. But I think you'll enjoy this number, "From a Distance."

Jackie Beat - From a Distance (2005)
Supreme Fabulettes - A Drag Queen Is A Cowboy's Best Friend (2013)
Mark Alan Smith - Harper Valley PTA (2001)

Now that was definitely a Texas production. Dallas performer Mark Alan Smith did that cover of "Harper Valley PTA," and also did an excellent impression of the voice of Houston drag queen Donna Day, on his 2001 CD "Who Does He Think She Is?" And the song in the middle is from this year, and I love it. "A Drag Queen Is a Cowboy's Best Friend" is from the UK trio the Supreme Fabulettes, and I love their singing and their campy videos. And, the song was written and produced by Boy George.

Now, I can't leave RuPaul out of this show, and I had a few songs to pick from, like "RuPaul the Red-Nosed Drag Queen," but went instead with a single from 2011 called "Sexy Drag Queen."

RuPaul - Sexy Drag Queen (2011)

I'm so glad the soundtrack for the new Broadway hit "Kinky Boots" was released in time for this show, as I got to pick from it a song where the character Lola, played by Tony winner Billy Porter, sang about his life. It is called "Land of Lola."

I'm so glad the soundtrack for the new Broadway hit "Kinky Boots" was released in time for this show, as I got to pick from it a song where the character Lola, played by Tony nominee Billy Porter, sang about his life. It is called "Land of Lola."

Billy Porter - Land of Lola (2013)

This is JD Doyle, finishing up Part 1 of my special show, "Songs ABOUT Drag Queens." The selections for this segment were, let's say, very specific...songs about drag queens by drag queens, but on Parts 2 & 3 of the show we'll hear from other folks singing about them, from a great variety of viewpoints. You can find that at queermusicheritage.com.

I guess it would not be too difficult to predict that I would close out this segment with music from the Broadway hit show "La Cage Aux Folles." As I usually pick from the original 1984 show, this time I'm taking two songs from the 2010 hit revival. Here are the title track "La Cage Aux Folles" and of course "I Am What I Am."

La Cage Aux Folles - La Cage Aux Folles / I Am What I Am (2010)


Magnetic Fields - Andrew in Drag (2012)

That was the Magnetic Fields singing "Andrew in Drag" from their CD from last year, "Love at the Bottom of the Sea." And this is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of my show on Songs ABOUT Drag Queens. In Part 1 it was the drag queens themselves doing the singing, but for the rest of the show, anything goes. And it seems there was a lot of gender confusion going on in the music world, with lots of straight guys trying to take home someone they perceive to be a girl. Oops.

Lord of the Pants - She's a Guy (2001)
Sunset Bombers - Drag Queen (1978)
Earps - Drag Queen (2007)

 

That set started off with a band called Lord of the Pants, and they did "She's a Guy" from their 2001 CD "Wit Happens." Then the next act was called the Sunset Bombers, and their only LP, a self-titled one, included the song "Drag Queen." It's from 1978 and was their only album because the lead singer, Doug Fieger, was also in a band just getting attention called The Knack, which went on to sell millions. Anyway, by the time we got to the last band of that set, well, they knew she was a drag queen. The Earps featured their song "Drag Queen" on a 2007 CD, "Here Come the Earps."

So, that set included two songs called "Drag Queen," and here are two more, starting off with a single from 1999 by John-Fredrick.

John-Fredrick - Drag Queen (1999)
Go Faster Nuns - Drag Queen (2005)
Hyperdrive Kittens - Rock 'N Roll Drag Queen (1993)

After John-Fredrick was a song called "Drag Queen" by the Go Faster Nuns. That's from their 2004 album "Under Neon Light." And they were followed by a "Rock 'N Roll Drag Queen," by the Hyperdrive Kittens, from 1993. That was released by the famous San Francisco label Outpunk.

Let's slow things down with an artist I love, Mary Gauthier. From the 1999 album that really started getting her exposure is the title track "Drag Queens and Limousines."

Mary Gauthier - Drag Queens and Limousines (1999)
Sponge - The Drag Queens of Memphis (1998)
Limbos - South Dakota Drag Queen (2010)

In the middle of that set we had some "Drag Queens of Memphis," which was by a band called Sponge, from their album "Wax Ecstatic," from 1998. And then we moved north to hear about a "South Dakota Drag Queen," as done by the Limbos in 2010.

Okay, we haven't had any vampire drag queens yet. So, from 1999, here's John Raymond Barker explicitly singing about one.

John Raymond Barker - Vampire Drag Queen (1999)
Andy Bell - DHDQ (2010)

From his 2010 CD "Rhapsody" was Andy Bell of Erasure and "DHDQ," which you know by now stood for "Debbie Harry Drag Queen."

And now I'm going back to the 1970's to two very prominent acts. First, from 1971, David Bowie will tell us about a "Queen Bitch," and then the Kinks, from 1978 will sing "Out of the Wardrobe."

David Bowie - Queen Bitch (1971)
The Kinks - Out of the Wardrobe (1978)
Rubettes - Under One Roof (1976)

Those three acts were all from the UK, and the last one was the Rubettes, with an unusual song for them, as they were known for their power pop hits. This song was called "Under One Roof."

Anyone for Christmas in July, well, I've got you covered. In 1993 B.D. Wong recorded a song for a benefit CD named "Cabaret Noel." Here's "Wishing You a Drag Queen Christmas."

B.D. Wong - Wishing You a Drag Queen Christmas (1993)

I'm JD Doyle and I'm closing Part 2 with a song I much respect. I usually try to end my segments with something a little upbeat, but I'm making an exception this time, in order to play a song about being a drag performer, and it is perhaps in terms of pure artistry, the best one ever recorded. Charles Aznavour, one of France's most celebrated singers, wrote and sings it, and in it he gives a gripping, melancholy look at the social alienation of the world of a drag artist. The song is called "What Makes A Man A Man?"

He recorded it in 1972, and it became one of the staples of his act over the years. A lot of the impact of the song is to see the visual part of the performance that he created. In it he starts out on stage in full drag, and begins singing the lyrics of the song while sitting at a makeup table facing the audience. He proceeds to remove fake eyelashes, wig and makeup and scrubs his face clean. He dons a dress shirt and slacks. He puts on his eyeglasses, quietly stands and greets the audience as the superb actor and man behind the illusion. So all this transpires slowly during the song, and you are left with the stunning impact of the transition between genders. I hope you can picture in your minds some of this as you listen to Charles Aznavour's "What Makes a Man a Man."

Charles Aznavour - What Makes a Man a Man (1972)


Moe Bandy & Joe Stampley - Where's the Dress (1984)

Back in 1984, when Boy George exploded onto the charts, at the Grammy Awards he was named Best New Artist. And I still remember watching that show and seeing him, via satellite, say:

"Thanks America, you've got style, you've got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one."

That was edgy stuff in 1984. Well, of course, Boy George didn't really consider himself a drag queen, but it was all the same to country artists Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley, who made a hit song out of their parody "Where's the Dress."

This is JD Doyle and I'm back with Part 3 of "Songs ABOUT Drag Queens." Here's some more country music, and the trio goes by all of their names, Vint Blackburn, Mathilda Nance and Billy King. From their 2011 album "Wanted," is "Daddy Is a Drag Queen."

LP featuring Richard Digance

Blackburn, Nance & King - Daddy Is a Drag Queen (2011)
Trailer Park Rangers - Drag Queen (1996)
Richard Digance - Drag Queen Blues (1972)

In the middle were the Trailer Park Rangers, taking things up-tempo with their song "Drag Queen." That was from their 1996 CD "Lullabies of All the Mess." And out of the UK from 1972 was folksinger Richard Digance, and one of his most popular songs, "Drag Queen Blues."

Ethan Daniel Davidson also has a folk song for us, and yes, it's a parody of "Puff the Magic Dragon," called "Gus, the Magic Drag Queen." His version is from a 2000 CD called "Ring Them Bells." And I really like it, as it starts out and you think you know where it's going, but you just don't.

Ethan Daniel Davidson - Gus T.M.D.Q. (2000)
Audra - Fearless Peaches (2009)
Smokey - Miss Ray (1976)
Mad Avenue Records - Drag Detergent (1960)


The above LP is apparently quite rare, click for more info

And, that was a parody commercial called "Drag Detergent" from an album called "Commercials in a Plain Brown Wrapper," by Mad Avenue Records, from 1970. And, didn't you just love "Gus T.M.D.Q"? I need to play that more often. After Gus you heard about "Fearless Peaches," from 2009, by a band called Audra. And then, way back to 1976 to an obscure artist just going by Smokey, but I know his real name is John Condon. He sang about "Miss Ray."

Coming up is a classic song about a drag queen song, and it's by the late Blossom Dearie. She died in 2009 and for several decades, starting in the 1950's she was a jazz singer especially popular in the supper clubs of New York City, where this song was recorded. From 1984 is the song "Bruce," and you'll hear her introduce it.

Blossom Dearie - Bruce (1984)
John Wallowitch - Bruce Redux (1993)
1918 - A House Divided - Drag Ball at Webster Hall (2008)
Perfectly Normal Boy - The Bad Drag Rag (2008)
Dirty Little Showtunes - The Leathermen & The Drag Queens (2001)
Pink Martini - Bitty Boppy Betty (2009)

Did that set drag on a bit? Sorry, after Blossom Dearie and "Bruce" were songs from two musicals from 2008. From "1918 - A House Divided" was "Drag Ball at Webster Hall" and from "Perfectly Normal Boy" you heard "The Bad Drag Rag." Next, from Tom Orr's famous show "Dirty Little Showtunes," from the Houston production from 2001, was "The Leathermen & The Drag Queens." Finally, last was the musical troupe Pink Martini and "Bitty Boppy Betty."

Okay, let's rock for a bit, with four bands from the 90's, two of them I presume were straight. I'm starting with Green Day and "King for a Day."

Green Day - King for a Day (1997)
Johnny Popstar Luv Explosion - Lizzy the Supermarket Drag Queen (1999)
RPLA - Last Night a Drag Queen Saved Your Life (1994)
Velvet Mafia - Mona Lisa Was a Drag Queen (1998)

You really didn't expect me to leave that out, did you? This is JD Doyle and I thank you for having the patience to share with me my three-plus hour show featuring Songs ABOUT Drag Queens. We're winding down so first let's recap that last set. Green Day brought us "King for a Day" from their 1997 CD "Nimrod," and then the Johnny Popstar Luv Explosion sang about "Lizzy the Supermarket Drag Queen." That was from their 1999 album by the same name. Then was a band called RPLA, and it took me a whole lot of googling to find out that RPLA stood for Red Patent Leather Angels. Their lead singer was the openly gay James Maker and from the band's only full album was the song "Last Night a Drag Queen Saved Your Life." Finally, the very gay and sadly late Dean Johnson was the leader of the Velvet Mafia. He died at age 45 of a prescription drug overdose in 2007, but fortunately left behind a large catalog of work, including the song "Mona Lisa Was a Drag Queen," from the 1998 Velvet Mafia CD "We Know Where You Live."

I thought it would be amusing to close things out with a song that is sort of about a drag queen, and maybe sort of not, you can decide. From the 1999 movie "Better Than Chocolate" actor Peter Outerbridge sang "I'm Not a Fucking Drag Queen."

Peter Outerbridge - I'm Not a Fucking Drag Queen (1999)