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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 262 > HOW JOHN GRANT BECAME THE MOST IMPORTANT GAY MAN IN THE WORLD

HOW JOHN GRANT BECAME THE MOST IMPORTANT GAY MAN IN THE WORLD

WHY A 48-YEAR-OLD MULTILINGUAL ICELAND-LIVING HIV POSITIVE GAY MAN FROM MICHIGAN IS BECOMING THE VOICE OF A GENERATION

Photography Leigh Keily

In 2010, feeling that the record industry was not something that would be receptive to a gay man releasing honest music about his life, as he had done unsuccessfully for ten years with his band The Czars, Michigan-born John Grant released his first solo album Queen of Denmark and everything changed. Met with universal acclaim, he found fans in Elton John and Sinéad O’Connor, MOJO magazine dubbed the album an ‘instant classic’ and then made it their album of the year. What was so impressive about the debut was, alongside its touching and playfully catchy melodies, was its emotional honesty about his struggles with depression, low self-esteem, addiction and homophobia. It was uncompromisingly, unselfconsciously gay in a way that felt brand new. He sang of love between men, not just sex. TC and Honeybear is a song about two men, childlike, lushly romantic and rich. Caramel is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written and performed by a man about another man. Jesus Hates Faggots is an angry song about his upbringing. Expressing what it means to be alive whoever you are, he engaged legions of gay and straight fans.

Then, riding high, in 2013 he returned with Pale Green Ghosts, more electronic and assured, with the sardonic anthems Black Belt, GMF and the painfully beautiful ode to the complex damage done to us by homophobia, Glacier. Rough Trade Records made it their album of the year. Q magazine and the BRITS both nominated him for Best International Male. At the Attitude Awards, we made him Man of the Year. He told me backstage before the show began that it was unexpected and scary for him growing up as he had never felt truly part of ‘gay culture’, something that so many of us feel. But ironically, John Grant is not just a musical artist; he’s a cultural manifestation of an emerging exploration of what it means for many to be gay, beyond hot pants and harnesses, in Western society today. Post some semblance of legal equality, post the brunt of the AIDS holocaust, he speaks in a way nobody else is. He says that being made to feel like a freak because he was gay made him want to be dead. He coped with that by getting out of his head. As a man who is in recovery from alcoholism, drug and sex addiction and living with HIV, it’s a journey which he refuses to sugar coat.

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About Attitude

This month’s Attitude cover star is One Direction’s Liam Payne, who gives the band’s first ever solo interview, and first gay press exclusive. Shot and interviewed by Attitude, he speaks out about his relationship with the gay community, and the band’s future. We also have an interview with music’s most profound gay voice, John Grant, the King of Broadway Harvey Fierstein, alternative pop star Peaches, and young adult author James Dawson. We have a feature looking at what really happened at the Stonewall riots, and look back at Emile Griffith, the tragic gay boxing star from the 1960s. This issue also introduces a few new pages to the magazine, including a Books page, the new Readers Question spread, and the debut of columnist Jemal Polson.
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