I’m sitting here listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing Rodgers and Hart ballads. Last night I binge-listened to interpretations of Noël Coward’s If Love Were All. Various artists from Rufus Wainwright to Barbara Cook have taken their turn at this hauntingly beautiful song. My favorite version? Judy Garland.
It used to be that for an American male to have a fondness for the American popular song would raise doubts about that man’s sexual orientation. Nowadays, who listens to Rodgers and Hart, Noël Coward (OK he’s English), Cole Porter? If you know who Billy Strayhorn was you’re an oddity. If you know that he was gay, you’re doubly peculiar.
The stereotype of so-called gay tastes goes beyond music, to interior design, architecture, cooking, fashion. My friend John A is writing a book about Fred Astaire’s early years in Manhattan. He’s writing a book about a male dancer. John is heterosexual, but then so was Astaire.
I’m going out on a limb and suggest that gays are today as devoid of good taste as the average het guy. If gay males stereotypically follow fashion trends and GQ Magazine is any sort of reflection of gay tastes, they have no taste as of 2017. GQ. has really crappy-looking clothes displayed in bad editorial photography. No great significance to this shift is implied nor should any be inferred. It’s really about the general decline of good taste in this country.
There is just so much good stuff that is largely ignored. It’s the secular version of the trend toward bad liturgical music in current Episcopal/Anglican and Roman Catholic Worship. Sadly we now settle for, if not aspire to the banal, not the exceptional or the sublime.
How did we get here? Can we go back?