Patrick Haggerty Dies: Man Widely Regarded As First Openly Gay Country Singer Was 78

Patrick Haggerty, the trailblazer widely regarded as the first openly gay country singer, died on Monday surrounded by his husband and children, according to a statement on his band’s Instagram page. He was 78.

“This morning, we lost a great soul. RIP Patrick Haggerty. After suffering a stroke several weeks ago, he was able to spend his final days at home surrounded by his kids and lifelong husband, JB. Love, and solidarity,” reads the statement.

Lavender Country was the band’s name as well as the title of its debut album. The self-titled 1973 disc is the first known gay-themed album in country music history, according to Journal of Country Music.

With tracks like “Come Out Singing” and “Cryin’ These C*cks***ing Tears,” it was funded and released by Gay Community Social Services of Seattle. Just 1,000 copies of the album were pressed for that first release.

The group’s original members were Haggerty, keyboardist Michael Carr, singer and fiddler Eve Morris and guitarist Robert Hammerstrom. The band released just two studio albums, the second being 2022’s Blackberry Rose.

Over the years, the membership varied, but Haggerty was always the frontman. The group performed at the first Seattle Pride in 1974 and subsequently at numerous pride and other LGBT events throughout the West. They broke up in 1976.

Lavender Country reunited briefly in 2000 after a prominent article on gay country musicians sparked renewed interest. That same year, the band released a five-song EP, Lavender Country Revisited, which featured rerecordings from the original album and two new compositions.

“Cryin’ These C*cks***ing Tears” was included in the 2012 compilation album Strong Love: Songs of Gay Liberation 1972-1981. The band’s debut album was rereleased on independent label Paradise of Bachelors in 2014, and the band did several reunion shows to support it.

He was also the subject of a 2016 documentary short that showed at SXSW, These C*cksucking Tears, directed by Dan Taberski.

Haggerty told Pitchfork earlier this year:

“It’s really quite astonishing, to have come full circle and realize that my anti-fascist work and my art get to be combined into the same me. I get to go out on stage and be a screaming Marxist bitch, use all of my artistry and hambonedness to do my life’s work. I get to be exactly who I am.”

Here is the statement posted Tuesday on the Paradise of Bachelors Facebook page:

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.

After we collaborated with him to reissue and tell the story of his 1973 album, widely regarded as the first openly gay country record ever released, Patrick finally saw the deserved recognition and accolades that had eluded him for decades. But for us, he was more than a hero; he was also a friend, mentor, comrade, and fatherly figure for us and our families. He was hilarious too; it was always an adventure spending time with him.

Patrick changed my life, and I am just one of a legion of people who can say that. When I cold-called him back in 2013, almost exactly nine years ago to the day, neither one of us could have imagined where it would lead us.

At that time, music was largely a private practice for Patrick; he was playing occasionally at nursing homes and felt that Lavender Country was in his past.

I’d just welcomed a son into the world, and Patrick and JB watched him grow up, showering him with gifts and love from afar and when they passed through on tour.

His songs and his example—as an artist, activist, and father, as a human being moving through the world, fighting hatred and cruelty, trying to raise a righteous voice for love—continue to inspire me, and I hope you too.

Patrick was never at a loss for stories or words, but for me, two words—his extraordinary father’s moral imperative—sum up much of what he stood for: “Don’t sneak.”

Sending love to all who loved him, as we did.


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