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Queer Classic: Jake Shears on “Mighty Real” Disco Legend Sylvester 

Queer Classic: Jake Shears on “Mighty Real” Disco Legend Sylvester

Step II : Jake Shears on “Mighty Real” Disco Legend Sylvester

We're highlighting 50 years of queer classics this week, as seen in "Songs in the Key of Pride" in the June/July issue. Here, Jake Shears is bringing it back to 1978.

Growing up, I was fascinated by voices that sang between the lines, that rode the frequencies right under the notes. The voices that weren't afraid to sound alien, feminine, or undefined. Jobriath did it so well in his song "I'm a Man," curling his vowels, sounding like a proper queen. Jimmy Somerville did it as well, with Bronski Beat. But no one paved that lane of vocal fluidity like Sylvester did. I've always wanted to explore his life more, but what I do know is that Sylvester was on the cusp of a new dawn, a new moment, where one could unapologetically be who they knew they were.

Related | 13 Trailblazing Queer Musicians Shaking Up Our Summer

Funnily enough, the first time I ever heard "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" it was sung by Sandra Bernhard in her one-woman show and film, Without You I'm Nothing. I was 15, and from her rendition and accompanying monologues, I learned more about gay culture and history than I had in my entire life. Though I'm in no way a comparable singer, if my voice isn't too rusty and I sing in a falsetto, I am pleasantly reminded of Sylvester's voice -- what it meant back then, what it means now. It's the sound of personal freedom and bravery, of a voice that was doing its thing when I was just a sparkle in my mother's eye-a voice that broke boundaries and opened doors for all of us. - Jake Shears

Shears's new book, Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir, is available now.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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