Top 10 LGBT Singers of All Time

Freddie Mercury
Photo by Steve Jennings / WireImage

As long as pop music has been around, there have been lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender singers, but many have felt the need to hide their sexual orientation in order to reach widespread acceptance with pop audiences. However, these LGBT singers have been famously open about their sexuality, paving the way for more queer artists to break into the mainstream. 

01
of 10

Elton John

Elton John
Photo by Robert Knight Archive / Redferns

Reginald Dwight, aka Elton John, was born in 1947 in Pinner, Middlesex, England. He began working with songwriter partner Bernie Taupin in 1967, and, by the mid-1970s, he became one of the biggest pop stars of all time. Elton John has sold more than 300 million records worldwide. He released seven consecutive #1 charting albums and has reached the top 10 of the US pop chart twenty-seven times. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Elton John came out as bisexual in a 1976 interview in Rolling Stone magazine. He married a woman, Renate Blauel, in 1984, but they were divorced in 1988. Soon after, Elton John said he was "comfortable" as a gay man. Elton John began a relationship with David Furnish in 1993. They formed a legal civil partnership in 2005 and were officially married in 2014. They have two sons. Elton John has been a tireless supporter of the fight against AIDS since the mid-1980s.

Watch Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" video.

02
of 10

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury
Photo by Steve Jennings / WireImage

Farrokh, aka Freddie, Mercury was born to Parsi parents on Zanzibar, an island now belonging to the country of Tanzania, in 1946. He gained fame as the lead vocalist of the theatrical rock band Queen, who went all the way to #1 on the US pop charts with their singles "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites the Dust." They also recorded the legendary hits "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions." 

Rumors long persisted about Freddie Mercury's sexual orientation, but he rarely shared details of his personal life with interviewers or fans. On November 22, 1991, Freddie Mercury released a statement to the press saying that he had been diagnosed as suffering from AIDS. Just over 24 hours later, he died at age 45. 

Watch Freddie Mercury sing "We Are the Champions" live.

03
of 10

George Michael

George Michael
Photo by Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Georgios Panayiotou, aka George Michael, was born and raised in London, England. He first enjoyed pop music success as one-half of the duo Wham! Together with Andrew Ridgeley, he hit #1 on the US pop chart with three singles in 1984. In 1987, he released his first solo album Faith and became an even bigger pop star. George Michael has sold over 100 million records worldwide, a number that is possibly artificially small due to the large gaps between album releases caused by disputes with his record label.

At age 19, George Michael came out to Andrew Ridgeley and his close friends as bisexual. In 2007 he spoke openly about being gay and said that he hid that he was gay in the past out of fear of how the news might impact his mother. The experience of being a gay man was overtly part of the subject matter of later hit songs including "Outside," "Amazing," and "Flawless (Go To the City)." In December 2016, George Michael died at age 53.

Watch George Michael's "Faith" video.

04
of 10

Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield
Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Mary Catherine O'Brien, aka Dusty Springfield, was born in 1939 in West Hampstead, England. She was raised in a musical family and joined the folk-pop trio the Springfields with her brother Tom and Tim Field. They became one of the UK's top recording acts in the early 1960s. She began recording solo in 1963 and by the late 1960s was a major pop star on both sides of the Atlantic and one of the most influential of female pop singers. Dusty Springfield was noted for her signature take on R&B, and her 1969 album ​Dusty In Memphis is considered a popular music landmark. Her popularity faded in the 1970s, but she returned triumphantly to the pop charts in 1987 singing on the Pet Shop Boys' hit "What Have I Done To Deserve This?"

Rumors about Dusty Springfield's sexuality began in the 1960s. By the early 1970s, she stated that she could be attracted to both men and women. In the 1970s and 1980s, she was in a string of romantic relationships with women. In 1983 she exchanged non-legal wedding vows with actress Teda Bracci. Dusty Springfield died a victim of breast cancer in 1999 at age 59.

Watch Dusty Springfield sing "Son of a Preacher Man" live. 

05
of 10

Ricky Martin

Ricky Martin
Photo by Mike Windle / Getty Images

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1971, Ricky Martin first gained fame in the music industry as a 12-year-old member of the boy band Menudo. After leaving the group in 1989, he embarked on a solo career. In March 1998, Ricky Martin released the single "La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life)." It became the official song of the 1998 World Cup, and it was performed live in 1999 at the Grammy Awards. The international exposure brought Ricky Martin to the attention of Engish-language audiences. His self-titled album debuted at #1 in 1999, and it included the #1 pop smash "Livin' La Vida Loca." He remains a superstar of Latin pop. He has reached the top 10 on the US Latin Songs chart twenty-six times.

Ricky Martin came out as gay through his official website in 2010. He delivered a speech against homophobia at a 2012 United Nations conference. In 2016 he announced his engagement to marry his boyfriend Jwan Yosef.

Watch Ricky Martins' "Livin' La Vida Loca" video.

06
of 10

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow
Photo by Jack Mitchell / Getty Archives

Barry Manilow was born in 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied music and began working as a commercial jingle writer in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, he began a professional association with Bette Midler that included accompanying her performances at New York City's gay Continental Baths. When former Columbia Records head Clive Davis merged multiple labels to create Arista Records in 1974, he signed Barry Manilow, and soon the collaboration bore fruit. Barry Manilow hit #1 on the pop chart with the single "Mandy" and soon became one of the biggest solo male pop stars of the decade. Barry Manilow has been recognized as one of the top pop music showmen of all time. He is a mainstay on the adult contemporary chart where he has reached the top 10 twenty-eight times.

Barry Manilow's sexual orientation was the subject of rumor from the first time he performed with Bette Midler in the early 1970s. However, he kept his private life out of the public spotlight. In April 2017 he officially came out revealing that he married Garry Kief, his boyfriend of thirty-six years, in 2014.

Watch Barry Manilow sing "Even Now" live.

07
of 10

Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe
Photo by David Lodge / FilmMagic

Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia in 1960. As the son of a military father, he lived in many different locations growing up. As a college student, he met record store clerk Peter Buck in Athens, Georgia, and the pair eventually decided to form a band. That band was R.E.M. and the group's first EP Chronic Town was released in 1981. Critical buzz soon followed and R.E.M.'s debut full-length album Murmur, released in 1983, was named by Rolling Stone as the Record of the Year. By the release of their 1992 album Automatic for the People, R.E.M. were America's biggest rock band. R.E.M. officially broke up in 2011.

In 1994, amid widespread rumors about his sexuality, Michael Stipe stated that he could not define it with a label and he was attracted to both men and women. In the 2000s, Michael Stipe stated that he didn't identify as gay but felt that queer was a better term to describe his sexuality. 

Watch Michael Stipe sing "Losing My Religion" live. 

08
of 10

k.d. lang

k.d. lang
Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Kathryn Dawn, aka k.d., Lang ( professionally written in all lower-case letters ) was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1961. She initially made a name for herself performing country and western music. She created her own style, which she refers to as "country punk." Roy Orbison gave a big boost to her career in 1989 when he chose her to duet with him on his classic song "Crying." The recording earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

k.d. lang came out as a lesbian in 1992 and has been a tireless champion of LGBT rights. She is also a vegetarian and an animal rights activist. k.d. lang has earned four Grammy Awards and reached the pop top 40 and #2 on the adult contemporary chart with her 1992 single "Constant Craving."

Watch k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" video.

09
of 10

Neil Tennant

Neil Tennant
Photo by Steve Thorne / Redferns

Neil Tennant was born in England in 1954. He began working for the British teen pop magazine Smash Hits as a journalist in 1982. In 1983 he became an assistant editor. In 1982, Neil Tennant also began working with electronic musician Chris Lowe on dance music. They first performed under the name West End but soon became the Pet Shop Boys. Their first single "West End Girls" became a #1 pop smash hit in 1986. Pet Shop Boys have sold more than 50 million records worldwide. They are among the top dance chart acts of all time. They have reached the top 10 on the US dance chart with twenty-nine songs.

Neil Tennant came out as gay in a 1994 magazine interview. He is a strong supporter of Elton John's AIDS Foundation.

Watch Neil Tennant sing "Go West" live.

10
of 10

Morrissey

Morrissey
Photo by Jo Hale / Getty Images

Steven Morrissey was born in 1959 and grew up in Manchester, England. In 1982 he formed the band the Smiths with guitar player Johnny Marr. The group soon built a devoted fan following and they were recognized as one of the most influential British groups of the 1980s. In 1988, Morrissey released his first solo album Viva Hate. Four of his solo albums have reached the top 10 on the US album chart.

Morrissey's sexual orientation has been the subject of much speculation in the press and near obsession on the part of his fans. At various times he was thought to be either bisexual or celibate. In 1994, he began a relationship with boxer Jake Walters. They were known to have lived together for a few years. In 2013, Morrissey released a statement that said, "Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humasexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course ... not many."  

Watch Morrissey's "Suedehead" video.

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Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 LGBT Singers of All Time." ThoughtCo, Aug. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/top-lgbt-singers-4149520. Lamb, Bill. (2017, August 30). Top 10 LGBT Singers of All Time. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-lgbt-singers-4149520 Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 LGBT Singers of All Time." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-lgbt-singers-4149520 (accessed December 11, 2017).