The bisexual pop singer with sometimes-vociferous political views celebrates a birthday today but that’s just one reason to celebrate her. Here nine more reasons why:
1. If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember the thrilling goose bump-inducing moment when “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” started playing on radios. The song, about wanting to rescue that battered straight girl, became an instantaneous lesbian hit with lyrics like “Do such things to ease your pain/Free your mind and you won't feel ashamed.” Why? It was strong and sexy, used the word “lover” (which we knew was code for same-sex partner), and what queer girl doesn’t like a good rescue-the-straight-girl story?
2. “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” went to number 5 on the Billboard charts in 1992 — a year before Melissa Etheridge did — and she was out about being a girl-lover, too. It became one of Vh1’s Top 100 Songs of the 1980s.
3. She’s 44 today. In an industry where Britney Spears is considered over the hill at 29, Hawkins looks as good as she did the year I wore out my cassette tape of her first album, Tongues and Tails.
4. She has a new album, The Crossing, coming out in Feb. 2012. Pre-orders are already selling at Amazon even though few fans know what’s in it. Hawkins says that The Crossing is a searing, lush, and startlingly naked chronicle of the most intense period of her life, in which she has come to terms with her father’s death, the haunting specter of her past, the exhilaration of motherhood, and a profound reckoning of acceptance. “I was really reaching for somewhere new as I wrote these songs,” she explains. “It all started with getting a letter from my sister that my father was dying – and, in a way, that opened up not only struggle and emotion but all these opportunities for healing. I had to acknowledge that I’d never be able to heal the abyss created by my parents’ alcoholism. I had to say this is how it was, this is how it is with me now and surrender to the grace of that. These feelings have always been there in my writing but it’s like I always kind of danced around them in my songs and now I was ready to go head-on into them. The songs began to express a kind of eternal dream I’ve had, that I think we all have, for a moment of peace and clarity, for the ability to get beyond our personal struggles and move out into the larger world — knowing exactly where you stand in it.”
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5. She’s reportedly working on a new musical with Glee stalwart Kristin Chenoweth.
6. She’s been steadfast in identifying as bisexual (or pansexual) even though she’s been with her lesbian partner, filmmaker Gigi Gaston (who directed the 1998 documentary about Hawkins called The Cream Will Rise). Gaston is a cool chick in her own right, and the director of the Alyson Hannigan heist film, Beyond City Limits.
7. She’s an eco chick. Hawkins worked with the Waterkeeper Alliance in 2010, an organization of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. (She reportedly donated 100% of the proceeds of one of her singles to the organization.)
8. She’s a vegan and an animal rights activist.
9. She’s a strange politico though. In 2008, she re-recorded her first hit as “Damn, We Wish You Were President” in support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, writing in her blog that “Hillary Clinton's achievements come from her heart. She has initiated so much positive change for families, children, victims of crime and the environment in her struggle for the forward movement of America and the working people of this nation.”
Then last February she performed at The Big Gay Party, an event held by gay conservative group, GOProud. That night talked about her views on everything from gun control to identity politics on Reason.TV (see the YouTube clip, titled “Liberal in Bed, Conservative in the Head”). Nobody ever accused her of being simple.
10. It's her birthday!