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Lavender Country: LGBTQ Country Music That Almost Went Unsung

Rachel Otwell
singer/songwriter Patrick Haggerty autographs albums for fans

What's considered to be the first openly gay country album was recorded in the 1970s. It went largely unnoticed until just a few years ago. Having been resurrected and re-releasedfrom a label in North Carolina in 2014, the work has earned new fans and accolades. A performance featuring the singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, Patrick Haggerty, happened earlier this year in St. Louis. Haggerty, a 72 year old Washington state native, is touring the U.S. and seeing his ground breaking work gain acknowledgment in an era of increased acceptance.

Haggerty says, "The reason that I made Lavender Country in the first place was to use it as a vehicle for social change ... It’s patently obvious in the music that that’s what it’s for. And I’m a socialist, and a community organizer, and Lavender Country is to move the movement forward - to create the community to do the battle that we all know that we need to do.” The show at Off Broadway in St. Louis was testament to the power the music holds. The crowd was diverse and engaged as Haggerty shared music and stories of his life - including how he was kicked out of the Peace Corps for his sexuality, and spent time as an activist in Cuba. 

Transgender journalist and poet Joss Barton shared some of her writings in between the musical acts, which included a group of drummers active in the Black Lives Matter movement. Barton, who grew up listening to country music as a resident of rural Missouri, says she quickly became a fan of Lavender Country after hearing the music for the first time last year. She calls the music revolutionary. “For me it was a very healing piece of art to consume ... This is a country music album about my community ... I think it’s a very important work.”

Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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