Love Songs in the Age of LGBTQ Rights
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
June 3, 2015
In the age of gay and transgendered rights, the lyrics to old love songs may have to be revised. It’s just a matter of time before same-sex love songs are as ubiquitous on the radio as the old heterosexual love songs. Let’s simply start with the Beatles’ catalogue. They have a lot of songs that will have to go through the revising process, although some will get a pass. For example, “Get Back” (1970) is obviously already up to date (“Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman/But she was another man”), so we don’t have to worry about that one. The same is true of “I Am the Walrus.” Although not relevant to the gay rights issue, it gets a special pass because it’s up to speed with and even beyond the animal rights movement: a man is a walrus. It’s the Next New Thing: men and women “transitioning” to animals (Except for walruses!). What about “Hey Jude” (1968)? Well, we can leave this number alone too because who knows whether Jude is a boy or a girl! But there are, of course, so many of their other love songs that will not get a pass, such as “Michelle” (1965). We might have to retitle that one “Michael.”
As for other artists, we have, for example, the late Lou Reed’s transsexual-themed “Walk On The Wild Side” (1972) – “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A./Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A./Plucked her eyebrows on the way/Shaved her legs and then he was a she” – which obviously needs no tinkering! – although it’s debatable whether we can call it a “love song.” The same goes for David Bowie’s 1974 “Rebel Rebel” (“You’ve got your mother in a whirl/She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl”). But there are so many other songs – and I’m sure you’ll have your own favorites that will definitely need to be reworked – that this editing process is almost an endless task. For example, the line “Well, if you’re stuck for a while consider our child/How can it be happy without its ma and pa,” in the early 1960s song (and later covered by Bryan Ferry in the 1970s), “Let’s Stick Together,” becomes “How can he be happy without his Parent A and Parent B?” The song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (1967) sung by Aretha Franklin among others, becomes “You Make Me Feel Like A Transgendered Woman.” And we can’t forget that classic 1966 Percy Sledge hit, “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Depending on whether the singer is gay or lesbian, you know how the lyrics of that song are going to be changed!
Don’t think this will happen to country music? Just wait and see…