Script for November 2001, QMH:
In 1974 Steven Grossman released his album "Caravan Tonight." He has the distinction of being the first openly gay artist signed to a major label, in this case Mercury, and the lyrics were even on the album jacket. Grossman died of AIDS in 1991. From that album here is the song "out"
Steven Grossman - out (1974)
That was "out" by Steven Grossman.
Since there will be many obscurities heard on this show, I thought those on the internet would like to be able to see photos of the artists and recordings, and view the playlist. So therefore you'll be able to see the cover of Steven Grossman's historic album. You can do that at www.queermusicheritage.com.
Next up is the song "I miss you" by Blackberri
Blackberri - I miss you (1981)
That was a little bit of the song "I miss you" by Blackberri, from his 1981 album "Blackberri and Friends: Finally." And Blackberri is the feature artist on tonight's show, and I'm delighted to be able to share an interview I did with him. He is a pioneer in gay-oriented music. I first became acquainted with his music because two of his songs are on the various artists album from 1979 called "Walls To Roses." That album includes the song "Gay Spirit" by Charlie Murphy, which I use to start off every show, and "Walls To Roses" is kind of a landmark album, because it was put together by a collective of gay and straight men supporting the struggle against sexism. Blackberri was invited to participate because of his music and long history of activism. When I began researching his work I was surprised how many different areas he has touched.
He was one of the first
openly gay artists to perform his music live on the radio, on two
San Francisco area stations. You'll hear him talk about Steven Grossman,
whom you heard at the beginning on the show, and his music was included
in the wonderful documentary 'Word Is Out." That film was from
1978 and was produced by Peter Adair, and was one of the first films
to present our stories, from our point of view. And Blackberri made
contributions to the movies "Looking For Langston" and "Tongues
Untied," that dealt with black gay America.
How did you get the name Blackberri?
I was living in a community in Tucson that defined itself as a feminist community. This community that I lived in was near the university where a group of folks that kind of all moved in the same vicinity and we had the same politics. It was near the women's building and I had started a gay liberation group. One of the things that we decided to do as a community at one point was to choose names that didn't refer to us as gender. I got the name Blackberri from one of the women in the group.
Did you change it legally?
And when did you start
making your own music?
Did you start out with
a certain style, like gospel or blues?
When you finally got
to the point where you were doing recording, how would you describe
your musical style then, like for someone who hadn't heard it?
I understand that you
worked with Steven Grossman a little bit, can you tell us about that?
Was it a series or a
What happened in your
In the film it was done
by group Buena Vista, what do you think of their version of it?
Buena Vista - he's okay (1978) [SEE ARTICLE BELOW]
That was Buena Vista's version of "he's okay" from the movie "Word Is Out." Next I asked Blackberri about his live radio work.
Was Fruit Punch in there
For the benefit of the
listeners, what is Fruit Punch?
So, how did you get to
Walls To Roses?
Was all the recording
done pretty much at the same time, so, were all the artists together
at the same time?
Did you write those songs
for that album, or did you already have them written.
These were ones that
you had been performing and so forth?
From the "Walls To Roses" album, here is "when will the ignorance end"
Blackberri - when will the ignorance end (1979)
That was "when will the ignorance end" from the album "Walls To Roses"
And then next came your
It was called Blackberri
and Friends: Finally, how come the finally?
[I asked Blackberri about Richard Dworkin. I need to interject who Richard is. I'm one of those music collectors who reads all the album credits, and I've seen Richard's name on many albums. For example, he was in Doug Stevens band on Doug's second album, he's been a member of Alex Chilton's band, and he's played drums as a session artist on countless albums. But many know him as Michael Callen's lover, and he produced the postumous album of Michael's work called "Legacy." So, for me it was natural to ask about Dworkin.]
Richard Dworkin was on
that album, can you tell me about your working with him?
He would play for your
This was in San Francisco?
Was Richard in Buena
So that ties that circle,
What neighborhood was
Blackberri - it's okay (1981)
'It's Okay" is my
favorite song on the album, is it yours, or which is your favorite?
Another song that is
very out on that album is the one about Tony, and that's also almost
a country and western song.
At the same time? At
the same time?
Blackberri - please help me to forget (1981)
That was the song "please help me to forget" from Blackberri's album called "Blackberri and Friends: Finally." In 1989 Isaac Julien directed a movie in Britain called "Looking For Langston." It dealt with the life of Langston Hughes, who was one of the most noted black poets of a period of the 1920s known as the Harlem Renaissance. Many believe Langston Hughes was gay. And in 1991 Marlon Riggs directed the movie "Tongues Untied" about African-American gay life. I asked Blackberri about his contribution to both of these movies.
Okay, I want to jump
to Looking To Langston. How did you get involved with that movie?
Blackberri - beautiful black man (1989)
That was "Beautiful Black Man," from "Looking For Langston"
Did that lead you to
Tongues Untied and you working with Marlon Riggs?
You were in Tongues Untied,
Blackberri's music continued into the 90s. In 1998 my favorite gay folk artist Mark Weigle invited Blackberri to sing on his CD "The Truth Is" and that album went on to be nominated for a GLAMA award in the debut album category, so naturally I asked Blackberri about the song he did on that album.
Tell me about working
with Mark Weigle, how did you meet him.
I was also able to get some comments from Mark Weigle about working with Blackberri on his song
I first saw Blackberri perform in San Francisco a few years back and had never heard his stuff before and I was just absolutely blown away, the guy's so professional and talented and to find out that he'd been putting out openly gay lyriced folk music back in the 70s and stuff I was just really inspired, and so when it came time for me to record the first CD, um, he was in the Bay Area where I'm from and I just thought it would be a great idea, I kind of rewrote "No More Nights Alone" to be a duet and invited him to join me, which was really a thrill for me, um and we came into the studio, and I'm about maybe 5'8", a little thin white guy and Blackberri is like 6 foot something and big barrel chested and has dred locks down to his ankles with white salt and pepper dred locks and here we're coming in to look deeply into each other's eyes and sing this love song to each other and my sound engineer just sort of saw us come through the door, and his jaw dropped, I'd not realized quite our contrast til that moment, so and Blackberri got up and sang his part of the song and he really did it differently than I had originally written and sung the melody for years so I was kind of caught off guard and then as I listened to what he did I just absolutely loved it and by the time I got up there to do my part I was just all into it and my vocals were one take, I was feeling all sexy about the whole thing, just did it all at once so I'm really happy about the way it turned out. People come up to me all over the country when they see his name on the back of the CD, and you know I've had people break into tears and say you know I saw Blackberri years ago or we both worked in this organization in New York in the 70s or whatever, they've so happy to know that he's still around, and that always really feels really good to me
From Mark Weigle's album "The Truth Is" here is Mark and Blackberri singing "no more nights alone."
Mark Weigle & Blackberri - no more nights alone (1998, 4:01)
Blackberri QMH ID
Well, since I asked Mark Weigle to tell us about working with Blackberri, I figured it was fair to ask Sonia of Disappear Fear about working with Mark Weigle
Mark Weigle! I love him, he, I was in California and I was doing some shows out there and we had talked about doing some, performing, he had joined me at long beach pride last year and that was fun and um he just has a really cool voice and he just sings from his heart and I like his music a lot so he asked me if I would come sing some on his album and I said absolutely and we were able to coordinate it, I like the song um and we did it. He's a good guy.
So, here is a duet by Mark Weigle and Sonia, doing "other houses" from Mark's album "All That Matters"
Mark Weigle & Sonia - other houses (2000)
Sonia is one of my favorite artists. She was a member of the highly acclaimed duo Disappear Fear, along with her sister, Cindy Frank. Between 1988 and 1996 they released five outstanding albums. In 1998 and 1999 she released two albums as a solo act, and I think they are even more incredible. Between her solo work and that with Disappear Fear, they were among the most nominated artists in the history of the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards, the GLAMAs. They got 9 nominations and won 3. So I'm very pleased that she's released a new album, and I got these comments from her.
Sonia, tell us about
the new CD.
And how is this CD different
from your last two CDs?
From the new album, let's hear "fallin"
Sonia - fallin' (2001)
I'd love to hear about
the song "me, too"
Before we hear the song, I want to thank you all for tuning in to the show, and I especially want to thank Blackberri for my feature interview and Sonia and Mark Weigle for their interview comments. And if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, 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.
Now, from Sonia's new CD "Sonia, Live At The Down Home," here is "me, too"
Sonia - me, too (2001)
Total time: 59:17