*Famed music producer Nile Rodgers and his late production partner Bernard Edwards first teamed with Diana Ross 40 years ago on her “Diana” album, which dropped May 22, 1980. It went on to become the best-selling LP of her career.
The album featured the hits “Upside Down” and the gay anthem “I’m Coming Out,” which was inspired by the Diana Ross drag impersonators at GG’s Barnum Room in midtown Manhattan.
“All of a sudden a lightbulb goes off in my head,” Rodgers previously shared with the New York Post. “I had to go outside and call Bernard from a telephone booth. I said, ‘Bernard, please write down the words: ‘I’m coming out.’ And then I explained the situation to him.”
While Ross immediately connected with the empowering lyrics of the song, she had no idea “I am coming out” was a gay thing.
“She didn’t even get that,” he said.
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As Pride Month comes to a close, Yahoo Entertainment caught up with the songwriter and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee to discuss the lasting legacy of “I’m Coming Out.”
Below are excerpts from the conversation.
Yahoo Entertainment: “I’m Coming Out” is one of the most enduring gay anthems of all time. Was it written with that intention?
Nile Rodgers: This is actually a wonderful story. So, right near Studio 54, there was a string of clubs … and there were two clubs in that area that were very, very, very popular trans clubs. One was called the Gilded Grape. Typically, I would go club-hopping around there, and the Gilded Grape on Eighth Avenue was totally hot. One night there I went into the bathroom, and on either side of me, there were at least — I always try and make it sound plausible, because people don’t believe how many Diana Ross impersonators were hidden there that night, so let’s just make it sound believable and say there were only maybe three or four deep on either side. Let’s say, like, six to eight. So there I was, in the bathroom, surrounded by Diana Ross impersonators. And I was the middle of producing my first superstar in my life and it happened to be Diana Ross. Imagine you’re in a Fellini movie — that’s what this was like.
I looked around me and I was so excited. I wanted to yell to these people, “Hey, you won’t believe it, but I’m producing Diana Ross!” But nobody would have believed me. So I couldn’t even get excited. But what I did get was motivated. I had an idea. A light bulb went off, and I thought, “Wait a minute. If I write a song for Diana Ross and talk about a disenfranchised part of her fan base and sort of make it for them, this would be an important record.” This was something I hadn’t thought about before, and here it was, right in front of my face.
And so I ran outside and I called Bernard. He was dead asleep. I tried to explain the situation to him. I told him it would be like when James Brown wrote, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud.” No one had particularly thought of James Brown as a leader in the Black Power movement, but when he wrote that song, that was one of the most powerfully political things that could have ever happened. So I said, “No one thinks of Diana Ross necessarily on the frontlines of this, but [the gay] community and her [gay] fans love her and idolize her. Let’s write this song for them!” And Bernard got it. It totally made sense to him.
What was Diana’s reaction when you presented her with the song?
Diana loved it. We never delved into the meaning or why we wrote it — until she played it for Frankie Crocker, who had now become the No. 1 radio personality in the world. She left our studio floating on air, she just loved her album, but when she played it for Frankie, it was not a good experience. He told her it would ruin her career. And she came back to our studio crestfallen and heartbroken. Of course, what’s really cool about Diana is that even when she’s pissed off, she’s still elegant. But she comes back and she says, “Why are you guys trying to ruin my career?” And this was out of the clear blue sky — an hour or two before, she had been the happiest woman in the world! But we could see she was brokenhearted. And we said, “Diana, come on now. If we really ruin your career, we’re ruining our career! You’re already Diana Ross. We’re just starting out. Why would we want to go down in history as the guys who ruined Diana Ross’s career? Do you think anyone’s ever going to work with us again?”
Why did Frankie think “I’m Coming Out” would mean career suicide for Diana?
The thing is that we had conducted all these interview sessions with her [before making the Diana album]. … Diana Ross had dictated to us her whole life. For instance, she had talked about “Upside Down” and how she wanted to turn the world upside down, turn her career upside down; those were her exact words. She had already known that we were writing every song about her life. So she may have misconstrued the idea when Frankie Crocker told her what “I’m coming out” meant — that she thought we were trying to imply that she was gay. Nothing of the sort. Diana is definitely not homophobic, that’s for sure. She is one of the coolest people you could ever meet. It was just that she now thought that we were saying that she was coming out.
She didn’t know what the term “coming out” meant?
She didn’t understand that this song was about the gay community. You’ve got to remember, doing this album to us was like doing a documentary. We got invited to her apartment and we did those interviews there, and we didn’t write a note of music until after we finished those interviews with Diana, not one note. She thought it was the coolest thing because it was the first time in her entire career that somebody had sat down, interviewed her, and wrote an album about her life. But we were writing the songs about her world through our eyes. So I never told her about [the Gilded Grape experience], because I didn’t have to. But what I did was, unfortunately I had to lie to her because she was so upset due to [Crocker’s remarks].
What did you tell her?
I said, “Diana, there’s a lot of things that Bernard and I say that you have to ask us what we mean, because we’re speaking in slang. We’re an R&B band. Whenever we’re about to start a show, we say, ‘Hey man, what’s our coming-out song tonight?’ Diana, don’t you say to your band, ‘Hey guys, what song are we going to come out with tonight?’ And she says, ‘No, I’ve never heard that before.’ I say, ‘Well, we do it all the time!’ And that’s the only time in my life — and this is a promise — that I have ever lied to an artist. But later, I said to her, “Diana, when you start your show, you will never ever come out with another song ever again, even though you’ve had so many hits. This is going to be the song that you come out to every night.” Well, have you ever seen a Diana Ross show in the last 35, 40 years? That’s what she does! Her concerts always start with “I’m Coming Out.”
Read more here.
Jodie Turner-Smith Opens Up About 4-Day Labor Journey: ‘I Was Fatigued’
*Jodie Turner-Smith is opening up about her four day labor experience at her Los Angeles home in April.
In an essay for the September issue of British Vogue, the actress reflects on her pregnancy journey and welcoming her first child, a daughter, with actor Joshua Jackson.
“Every stage of my pregnancy brought its own challenges and lessons,” she said. “Nobody really teaches you about what your body goes through to bring a child into the world until you’re actually doing it.”
Turner-Smith and Jackson opted for a home birth amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to the “negative birth outcomes for Black women in America.”
“We had already decided on a home birth, because of concerns about negative birth outcomes for Black women in America — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths is more than three times greater for Black women than for white women, pointing, it seems to me, to systemic racism,” she says.
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moth·er /ˈməT͟Hər/ : a fantastic voyage that begins in wonder and transformation. >>>>> thank you @fancygomez for capturing a small piece of this portion of the journey. i will never forget how this felt and now won’t soon forget how it looked 🌱💞 #FrankieMark #JodieByFrankieMark
“We never imagined that in the coming weeks, hospitals around the country would begin restricting who could be present in the birthing rooms, forcing mothers to deliver without the support person or people of their choice,” she explained. “Delivering at home ensured that I had what every single woman deserves to have: full agency in determining my birth support.”
Turner-Smith says she spent nearly four days in labor in late April.
“Early in the morning on my third day of labour, my husband and I shared a quiet moment. I was fatigued and beginning to lose my resolve. Josh ran me a bath, and as I lay in it contracting, I talked to my body and I talked to my daughter,” she shared. “In that moment, he snapped a picture of me. An honest moment of family and togetherness — a husband supporting a wife, our baby still inside me, the sacred process of creating a family.”
The “Queen & Slim” star then praised her husband for supporting her throughout the pregnancy.
“It made me realize how lucky and privileged I am to have a partner willing to follow me around the world, supporting me while I did my job,” she wrote.
“Both of us had watched our own mothers struggle to raise children without such support. Both of us were determined to create something for ourselves,” she said of Jackson. “He kept saying to me, ‘There’s no part of this that I’m going to miss.’ “
Now, the new mother is thinking about her daughter’s future.
“Sometimes I wonder how I will explain to my daughter what it meant to be born in the year 2020. The historic events, the social unrest, and me — a new mother just trying to do her best,” she said. “I think I will tell her that it was as if the world had paused for her to be born. And that, hopefully it never quite returned to the way it was before.”
Read her full essay here.
Larry Wilmore Announces Late-Night TV Return with New Show on NBC’s Peacock
*Comedian Larry Wilmore is set to lead a weekly show on NBC’s new streaming platform Peacock. The streamer has ordered 11 episodes set to premiere in September.
“I’m honored to have the chance to not only be back on television but to partner with the great team at Peacock,” said Wilmore in a statement, THR reports. “Apparently there’s a lot going on in the world right now and a big election happening soon, so I’m happy to have a place in the conversation.”
This marks his first return to hosting since Comedy Central canceled “The Nightly Show “in 2016.
— amber ruffin (@ambermruffin) August 10, 2020
Wilmore also announced the news in a Twitter feed, captioning Peacock’s official announcement with “I’M BAAAAAACK!!!!!”
His new series will feature conversations with influencers in entertainment, sports, and politics.
The show joins the previously announced “Amber Ruffin Show,” which Peacock has ordered nine episodes set to premiere in September.
Said Ruffin of her series, “Having a late-night show on Peacock is so exciting! We can’t wait to write sketches, songs and jokes about this terrible time we call now!”
Here’s more from THR:
The Amber Ruffin Show will feature her signature smart and silly take on the week’s news, and no matter what’s happening in the world, she’ll respond to it with a mix of seriousness, nonsense and evening gowns.
Wilmore’s untitled show will feature the host having real conversations with high-profile people from the worlds of sports, politics and entertainment. Each episode will cover the election and engage in the important conversations of the week and be funny, sometimes serious, potentially awkward and definitely honest.
NBC announced Peacock’s late-night television programming during the company’s virtual panels for the CTAM Press Tour.
Rohan Marley Apologizes to Daughter After She Opens Up About Having ‘Daddy Issues’
*Rohan Marley has apologized to his daughter Selah for ‘any contributions’ his ‘arguing’ with her mother Lauryn Hill – coupled with his absence- may have had in her life.
Selah, 21, criticized her parents in a Instagram Live stream on Monday (August 10), during which she opened up about the “trauma” she endured as a child with her “angry” mother and daddy issues. At one point, she tells fans that she would Google what it was like to have a father.
“Honestly guys, I’m just hurting. I can’t even front that I’m not,” she said. “I’ve been hurting for so much of my life and so much of my life has been me avoiding how much I’m really hurting just from the circumstances.”
Rohan, the son of Bob Marley, is apologizing for his behavior via a statement released through his rep, Hollywoodlife.com reports. “Selah’s expression on Instagram is a healing process for her,” he said. “I’m very happy that she is fearless in her expression.”
“I love her very much and do apologize for any contributions I may have added by arguing in front of her as a child,” he continued in the statement. “I’ve grown as a man, a spiritual being and a father. I am constantly growing and will teach my children to always take the higher road in any disagreements. I will be there for her no matter how many hours, days, months or years it will take. I will be the best Dad that I can be. One Love.”
Selah followed up with an Instagram Live chat on Aug. 11, in which she defended her parents from critics.
“My mother is a human, she’s not a perfect person but I’m not going to feed off all the negativity,” she said. “In the past 10 years she’s healed so much and I’ve watched her evolve and the same thing with my father. I mean he did some BS lately but my father, he’s healing as well. I came on and saw how the media misconstrued what I said, that is why I came on live it was a one dimensional narrative.”
She also explained that she’s now very close with her mom.
“Me and my mother are very close. She’s texting me as we speak,” she said. “Anger is a secondary emotion for sadness. I think for me growing up, remember I grew up with all brothers, so I’m like we’re fighting, we are fighting so I just learned how to be tough, I was always tough. So now coming back I’m learning how to cry again. Learning how to forgive is a big one, learning how to love, learning how to not be angry. And what I’m even learning now is how many walls I put up.”
Lauryn and Rohan dated from 1996 until 2008 and have five kids together. Lauryn also has a child from another relationship.
Scroll up and watch Selah share her story via the YouTube clip above.
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