OT: Sandi Patty, The CCM Judy Garland
Via Martin Roth (seriously, give this man an award for finding the most fascinating mainstream media coverage of Christian music, and then withhold it from him until he consistently puts permalinks on his posts), a brave Washington Blade story that dares to talk about something that anyone paying attention has known for years but no one wants to admit. Sandi Patty has a huge following among gay men.
Why? The story takes a not-half-bad stab at it, and you can read that for yourself (or not - if this isn’t your bag, don’t say you weren’t warned). But besides oddly implying that gay people don’t go to church (which, no matter your feelings on the issue, is just plain counterfactual) - or on second thought, maybe the article is suggesting that music of the sort Patty makes is church enough for some people - one thing noticeably absent from the story’s analysis was any mention of the element of campiness in Patty’s persona and performance and its role in her appeal to gay men. Like showtunes and some of the outsized personalities of many charismatic televangelicals and the hyper-stylized, over-the-top persona of a Cher or a Madonna or a Judy Garland or, even - yes - a Vestal Goodman (all with long-established followings among gay guys), there’s something campy - that is exagerrated and theatrical and a touch ironic or more knowing than we think - about Sandi Patty’s stage presence (all those operatic flourishes she uses and the bedazzling costumes and the arrangements and choreography of many of her songs and performances taken, ehrm, straight out of Broadway).
It would take (and has taken) many a PhD dissertation and several books to get into the connection between homosexuality, camp, and music (though the essayist Richard Rodriguez may be on to something when he suggests, in his memoir Brown: The Last Discovery of America, that the exaggeration and role-playing that Broadway musicals rely on and other music that borrows from Broadway employs often feel like the most authentic way for socially marginalized people - not just gay people but many women, and artistic or eccentric types - to express themselves). But this Blade piece not only reminds us that many of our favorite Christian (including southern gospel) artists rely on stage personae that are to some extent carefully crafted constructs (which is, as I’ve said before, no reason at all to think the music is any less “real” or “authentic”). The story also does a decent job of capturing the sometimes vertiginous intersection of religion and sexuality that can happen when we’re not looking - or pretending we’re not to, anyway.Email this Post