Lavender Country’s Patrick Haggerty, pioneering gay country musician, dies aged 78

The Washington musician and queer rights activist recorded some of the first openly gay country songs

Patrick Haggerty, the pioneering gay country musician who led Seattle band Lavender Country, has died aged 78. His social media channels report that the late singer and songwriter suffered a stroke earlier this year, leading to complications that caused his death.

Paradise of Bachelors, the label that reissued Lavender Country’s self-titled debut album in 2014, confirmed the news on Twitter: “We are heartbroken to confirm that Patrick Haggerty, the visionary songwriter, dauntless activist, and irrepressible raconteur of Lavender Country, passed away at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”

Haggerty was born in 1944 in Washington. He knew he was gay from an early age and credited his parents for being accepting and supportive of his sexuality. After being discharged from the Peace Corps in his early 20s for being gay, Haggerty became a queer rights activist and a socialist – Haggerty described himself as a “screaming Marxist bitch” – and a few years later, he founded Lavender Country, who would perform at pride and LGBTQ+ rights events on the west coast of the US.

1973’s Lavender Country is widely regarded as the first ever openly gay country album. The 1,000-run private-press record was funded by the Gay Community Social Services of Seattle, and featured songs such as Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears and I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You, which would later be acknowledged as classics of the queer musical canon. In 2014, Paradise of Bachelors reissued Lavender Country, leading to a resurgence in interest in Haggerty and his music; the drag queen Trixie Mattel featured a cover of I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You on her 2020 album Barbara, while an acclaimed short documentary about Haggerty’s life, These C*cksucking Tears, was released in 2016.

In 2016, spurred on by the renewed interest in his music, Haggerty released a follow-up to Lavender Country titled Blackberry Rose. The album was acclaimed upon its reissue earlier this year by Don Giovanni Records, with Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene describing Haggerty as “an antenna for human suffering, able to probe his way into the particulars of just about any life … a folk artist, a singer for everyone.”

On Instagram, Haggerty’s collaborators and friends paid tribute to the late activist. “Patrick Haggerty was one of the funniest, kindest, bravest, and smartest people I ever met,” wrote Don Giovanni Records. “He never gave up fighting for what he believed in, and those around him who he loved and took care of will continue that fight.”

Folk singer Jake Blount, a relative of Haggerty’s by marriage, described Haggerty as an “elder and a musical hero to my generation of queer country artists”. Adding: “Gonna miss your energy, you screaming Marxist bitch.”

Contributor

Shaad D'Souza

The GuardianTramp

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