Patrick Haggerty, pioneering gay country singer, dies at 78

Patrick Haggerty faced a moment of truth.

In the early 1970s, while preparing to record his first country music album, Haggerty had to make a choice: Would he be an industry-friendly country singer and remain in the closet, or would he use music to make a statement about being a gay man living in a discriminatory world.

Haggerty chose the latter.

His first album, 1973’s “Lavender Country,” which also is the name of his band, is regarded as the first country album recorded by an out gay musician.

Haggerty, a trailblazing country crooner, died Monday, several weeks after he had a stroke, Brendan Greaves, a close friend and record label executive, said in a social media post.

Haggerty was 78.

“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, an unflappable activist for LGBTQ+ and socialist causes and married father of two, was ignored for decades in the music business 

“Lavender Country” was a defiantly queer record that showcased  songs like “Cryin’ These Cocksuckin’ Tears,” at a time when few musicians, in any genre, felt safe identifying as gay.

Haggerty was surprised when he had an opportunity in 2014 to rerelease that historic album and record another one, performing with other LGBTQ+ country musicians and sharing his story with millions of listeners.

“The very thing that sank me in the first place is the very thing that jettisoned me into this position,” Haggerty  told CNN earlier this year.

Over the last year, Lavender Country played shows across the U.S. in support of its second record, “Blackberry Rose.” Haggerty was scheduled recently to perform several concerts, but they were canceled after he had the stroke.

During those tour dates, Lavender Country played with other LGBTQ+ country acts like Paisley Fields, who, in a Twitter post, remembered Haggerty as a “trailblazer, fearless and outspoken.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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