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Groundbreaking Lavender Country album gets new life

Patrick Haggerty, singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, has assembled a new lineup. The band’s 1973 debut, considered the first openly gay album in country music, has been rereleased.
Patrick Haggerty, singer and songwriter of Lavender Country, has assembled a new lineup. The band’s 1973 debut, considered the first openly gay album in country music, has been rereleased.Brendan Greaves

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It’s not exactly the stuff of classic country music, then or now.

Back in the closet again

So whoopee ti yi yeah

It’s sure a bummer being gay

When I’m back in the closet again

When Patrick Haggerty wrote those words in the early 1970s, singing them with a thick twang set against sawing fiddles, he had no idea he was blazing a trail. Under the name Lavender Country, Haggerty fronted a Seattle band whose self-titled debut in 1973 is widely considered the first openly gay album in country music.

“Lavender Country” was ahead of its time, a potent collection of protest songs about the experience of being gay at a time when no such perspective existed in popular music, at least not in such frank and bold terms. It was a historical document whose legacy didn’t extend much beyond its initial sold-out run of 1,000 copies pressed on vinyl.

That record is now getting a new life courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors, an independent label out of North Carolina, which rereleased “Lavender Country” last week. It puts the album, and its charismatic maker, back in the spotlight and acknowledges Haggerty, who’s now 70, for what he truly is: a pioneer.

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