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Lesbian Anthems

Music is indeed the 'food of love', and lesbians have their favorite 'Anthems'. Empowering, inspirational, bad-assed or just plain fun, gay gals gravitate toward particular musicians. Here�s a look back at a handful of singable, infectious anthems by Ani DiFranco, Madonna, Melissa Etheridge, The Indigo Girls, Eurythmics, The Butchies, The Pretenders and more�


There’s nothing quite like singing your heart out while cruising down the freeway, the wind in your hair and a girl at your side. And what better play list to toss your head back and sing along to than those declarative, empowering anthems that gay and straight women alike have churned out for the past several decades?

From the usual suspects like Melissa Etheridge and Ani DiFranco to the less obvious Kelly Clarkson—from pop music to punk—gay women have embraced and celebrated those musicians who boil down feminist ideals, empowerment, unrequited love or queer angst into three and half minutes.

For a stroll through the not so distant past, we’ve compiled a starter list of lesbian anthems. Clearly absent from this—by no means exhaustive—list are those lesbian feminist pioneers from the 1970’s including Holly Near, Meg Christian and Chris Williamson, whose work helped coin the term "women’s music". The lesbian singer songwriters from that era were so prolific and influential that they deserve to be honored with their own list, to be compiled at a later date.

"Closer to Fine" - Indigo Girls: The ultimate sing-a-long, The Indigo Girls’ 1989 enduring hit “Closer to Fine" embraces individuality, acceptance while railing against institutions. Emily Saliers and Amy Ray deliver simple harmonies perfect for fireside hootenannies and long car rides as typified by The L Wordgang singing it for two-hours plus on their ride to the Dinah Shore Weekend. Nearly twenty years after its release, the

Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” has become an indelible piece of lesbian pop culture. The harmonies are as familiar to the stereotype of lesbian culture as flannel shirts, Birkenstocks and Rubyfruit Jungle. But like a lighting rod of recognition, any budding gay girl in the late eighties can likely recall where she was the moment she heard the Indigo Girls’ dual guitars.

"Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves" - Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin: A rollicking feminist call to action, Eurythmics’ gorgeous androgyne Annie Lennox and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin kick the boys to the curb with this soulful classic. “The ‘inferior sex’ got a new exterior. We got doctors, lawyers, politicians too.” Ultimate empowerment with two music divas facing off, lesbians continue to embrace this "sisterhood".

"Get the Party Started" - Pink: Fierce and hard-bodied Pink’s a gay gal fave who’s copped to a little love with the fairer sex. But her infectious tune “Get the Party Started", which has become a contemporary dance party staple, smacks of unabashed self confidence. “Boulevard is freakin’ as I’m comin’ up fast. I’ll be burnin’ rubber, you’ll be kissin’ my ass.”

"Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" - Sophie B. Hawkins: Strong and sexy, Sophie B. Hawkins' 1992 hit left the girls gob smacked when she declared, “I sat on the mountainside with peace of mind. I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear.” Her refrain, “Damn I wish I was your lover,” said it all for a generation of yearning young lesbians.

"Brass in Pocket" - The Pretenders: The Pretenders bad-assed front woman Chrissie Hynde’s “Brass in Pocket,” is a big f*** off to sitting around and waiting for love. It’s a no-holds-barred call to take the reigns in all matters of sex and love. “Cause I'm gonna make you see. There’s nobody else here No one like me I’m special, so special,” Hynde asserts.

"Since You Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson: America’s original idol, Kelly Clarkson blows it out of the water with her rocking tune about independence in the wake of an affair gone awry. “Since you been gone. I can breathe for the first time. I'm so movin' on, yeah yeah. Thanks to you, now I get what I want. Since you been gone.” Clarkson’s proven she’s more than just a big music label baby and the girls love her for it.



"You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me"

- Dusty Springfield: A heartrending paean to unrequited love, Dusty Springfield’s “You Didn’t Have to Say You Love Me” teems with emotion.

A top-rate soulful singer and lesbian, generations of closeted women identified with the song in which Springfield proclaims she’ll take whatever she can get from her love object. What landed Dusty’s sad song on a list of anthems is the conviction with which she sings. The strength in her voice belies her breaking heart.

"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" - Cyndi Lauper: Sprightly powerhouse Cyndi Lauper burst on to the pop scene in 1984 with her everlasting hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, encouraging young women to live a little. “Some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. I want to be the one to walk in the sun,” Lauper sings. Not only has she walked in the sun since its release but Lauper’s become an ardent activist for her LGBT brethren.

"In or Out" - Ani DiFranco: As fierce as any acoustic guitar playing girl with can be, Ani DiFranco refuses to fit neatly into a role in her rambunctious little tune, “In or Out”. “Tonight you can't put me up on any shelf. 'Cause I came here alone. I'm gonna leave by myself.” “Some days the line I walk turns out to be straight. Other days the line tends to deviate.” A self-identified queer, who married a man, DiFranco’s refusal to be pinned down endeared her to a generation of Sapphic sisters.

"Yes I Am" - Melissa Etheridge: Melissa Etheridge’s entire lexicon is chock-full of anthems. But premiere lesbian rocker Etheridge’s post-coming out album “Yes I Am” delivers the declarative title song in which Etheridge opens up and admits “yes I am”. “I Am I your passion your promise your end. I say I am. Yes I am,” Etheridge declares, and while she’s ostensibly singing to a lover, the double entendre was a shot out to her gay fan base that made her an enduring and beloved lesbian poster child.

"Express Yourself" - Madonna: Sex positive, button pusher Madonna donned a suit and monocle and grabbed her crotch to parody making it in a man’s world in the steamy “Express Yourself” video. A powerful business woman and cultural icon, Madonna sang about pleasing a man in the 1989 smash hit, but one look at the video and there was no question she was on top and in charge.

"More Rock More Talk" - The Butchies: In your face and fearless, The Butchies turned out a driving punk anthem to embracing queer culture with 1999’s “More Rock More Talk”. There’s no subtlety in Kaia Wilson, Melissa York and Alison Martlew’s lyrics that rage, “We’re for QUEER YOUTH. We’re GO UNION. We are PRO CHOICE. We are not scared by you”. A trio of bad-assed babes that’s sorely missed, The Butchies’ canon still holds its own.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

<p>Cinephile, cyclist, proud cat lady and unabashed Pretty Little Liars guru.</p>

<p>Cinephile, cyclist, proud cat lady and unabashed Pretty Little Liars guru.</p>