Lesbian music anthology, an historical list of lesbian singers and sapphic albums
The positive development and vitality of lesbianism in the music industry these days must not make us forget about the hard times poets have endured in the past. Since the second wave of feminism in the 70s, conflicts have subsided and many claims brought by women activists or singers seem to be old and obsolete now. To remember and keep the memory of those fights alive, I thought of writing a lesbian music anthology. This is a list of selected artists, groups, albums or lesbian love songs chosen for the beauty of their style or their influence on history.
Margie Adam is an American musician and composer. In 1973, while attending the Sacramento Women’s Music Festival, she performed during the open mic session and began her career as a professional musician. The following year, the first National Women’s Music Festival was held in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Adam co-headlined the festival, alongside Meg Christian and Cris Williamson. That conference is credited as helping to form the Women’s music movement, with Adam at the forefront. Her first album, Margie Adam, was promoted with a fifty city tour which concluded with a performance of her song, “We Shall Go Forth” at the National Women’s Conference in Houston. The song quickly became an anthem for the lesbian-feminist movement and is now part of the Political History archives in the Smithsonian Museum.
Alix Dobkins is an american folk singer and songwriter born August 16, 1940 in New York City. She is known to have lived her personal life in harmony with her political convictions, and for being one of the first american artists to come out as a lesbian during the protests of 1968. She wrote two important albums between 1973 and 1975 called Lavender Jane Loves Women (with Kay Gardner and Marilyn Ries) and Living with Lesbians. These masterpieces contain two famous titles: The Woman In Your Love Is You and A Woman’s Love. A dedicated CD re-released the first two albums of Alix Dobkins in Living with Lavender Jane, 1998. You can find more information about her on Alix Dobkins official website.
Meg Christian is an american folk singer born 1946 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She is one of the most significant figures associated with the women’s music movement. She is known as an openly lesbian activist since 1969. She embraced the “women’s separatism” controversial cause and sometimes played at women-only venues during the 70’s. If we had to choose some sounds among her best albums, I’d recommend Ode to a Gym Teacher (1974) from her first album I Know You Know and Sweet Darlin’ Woman Written by Diane Lindsay in the 1993 album called The Best of Meg Christian.
Linda Tillery is an American singer, percussionist, producer, songwriter, and music arranger. She is recognized as a pioneer in Women’s music, with her second solo album titled Linda Tillery released on Olivia Records in 1977. In addition to performing, she was the producer on three of Olivia’s first eight albums. She has collaborated with June Millington, Deidre McCalla, Barbara Higbie, Holly Near and Margie Adam. In 1977, Olivia released the compilation album Lesbian Concentrate in response to Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade. Tillery contributed the song “Don’t Pray For Me” to the LP, which was composed by Mary Watkins. This song has been recognized as one of the first songs to directly challenge homophobia.
Cris Williamson is an american feminist, teacher, singer and songwriter born in 1947 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Next to Holly Near, Meg Christian, and Margie Adam, she is one of the pioneering artists who started a new music genre known as “women’s music” (Americana/Folk/Acoustic) created, performed, and marketed specifically to women. In the long list of her fabulous creations, I chose her original poem Sweet Woman written in 1975. This song is part of her album named The Changer and the Changed. You can find more information about her on Cris Williamson official website.
Teresa Trull is an American female singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer from Durham, North Carolina. She is recognized as a pioneer in Women’s music, with her debut album The Ways a Woman Can Be released on Olivia Records in 1977. It was Olivia’s fifth LP release. The album’s style is primarily folk-rock with R&B, gospel, and country influences, and contains several songs with overt lesbian and/or feminist lyrics, such as “Woman-Loving Women” and “Don’t Say Sister (Until You Mean It).” Six of the album’s eight songs were composed by Trull, most of them written when she was between the ages of 16 and 20.
Joan Armatrading is a british singer, songwriter and guitarist born December 8, 1950 in Basseterre (Caribbean island of Saint Kitts). She is known for her blues and folk rocks songs called Love and Affection (1976, from the albulm called Joan Armatrading) and The Weakness in Me (1981, from the album called Walk Under Ladders). Timid by nature and very reserved, Joan Armatrading has never been a feminist or politically engaged but the sincerity of her art has made her a lesbian icon. She is my favorite singer. Here is the Joan Armatrading official website.
Ferron is a canadian folk singer, songwriter and poet born June 1, 1952. After subsequently established her own record label “Lucy Records” and released her debut album called Ferron in 1977, she became one of the most influential writers and performers of “women’s music”. Her most famous sapphic song was written in her album Testimony (1980), the title is named Our Purpose Here. Ferron is also one of the inspirational source of the Indigo Girls.
Joan Jett is an american rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and occasional actress born September 22, 1958 in Wynnewood. She is known for her work with the groupe Joan Jett & the Blackhearts inspired by The Runaways. Joan Jett never confirmed or denied the speculations about her sexual orientation, she never came out as a lesbian. She became an icone during the 70’s movements. One of my favorite song made by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts is the famous title called Crimson and Clover written in 1981 for the album I Love Rock ‘n Roll. Find more about Joan Jett on her website.
Lucie Blue Tremblay is a canadian folk singer and songwriter born 1958 in Montreal. After her first notable television appearance in 1984, she made an album centered around lesbian themes called Lucie Blue Tremblay (1986) where she wrote an iconic love song named So Lucky. Lucie Blue Tremblay is a close friend of the singer and songwriter Ferron with who she appeared at the 1985 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s Day stage singing a duet with her. Here is the Lucie Blue Tremblay official website.
Melissa Etheridge is an american rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and activist born May 29, 1961 in Leavenworth, Kansas. She came out publicly as a lesbian in January 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a gay celebration of President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Meliassa Etheridge is known for her lead single Bring Me Some Water written in 1988 and being part of her album called Melissa Etheridge. She also wrote the powerful tube Come To My Window (1993) made for the album Yes I Am. You can find more information about her on Melissa Etheridge official website.
K.d. lang or Kathryn Dawn Lang is a Canadian pop and country singer, songwriter and occasional actress born November 2, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta. She came out as a lesbian in 1992 by purposely opening her heart to the LGBT magazine The Advocate. K.d lang is well known for having popularized the tomboy style in her music videos. In 1992, she sang Constant Craving, a remarkable song featured in her album Ingénue. Here is the KD Lang website.
Sophie B. Hawkins is an american singer, songwriter, musician and painter born November 1, 1964. She is known for her activism and became famous since her debut album Tongues and Tails released in 1992. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover is one of her most famous songs, it gain notoriety after the original music video has been banned and censored by The television network MTV. Sophie Ballantine Hawkins identifies herself as omnisexual. Get more informations about Sophie B. Hawkins on her website.
Indigo Girls is an american folk rock music duo (started in 1985) consisting of Amy Ray (born April 12, 1964 in Decatur, Georgia) and Emily Saliers (born April 12, 1964 in New Haven, Connecticut). This group actively supported gay rights since the beginning. Their best release, from my point of view, was the explicitely sapphic title Power Of Two (1994) part of their magnificent album called Swamp Ophelia. You can read their biography on Indigo Girls offcial website.
I wish you to find your happiness or discover new horizons due to this non-exhaustive list of lesbian singers and sapphic albums. I would like to mention three sources that helped me to write this article: the Top 10 Love Songs for Lesbians made by Kathy Belge on Lesbianlife, the 20 Great Lesbian Love Songs made by Jamis Anderson for LOTL and The Top 50 Lesbian Songs are not just from lesbians made by Mia Jones on AfterEllen. I think this is a good start to explore the lesbian side of feminism in the eventful modern history of western countries.