Carl Bean, gay singer who turned to preaching, dies at 77

Carl Bean, who in 1977 recorded “I Was Born This Way,” an LGBTQ pride disco song that became a heavily remixed club favorite – and who w...


Carl Bean, who in 1977 recorded “I Was Born This Way,” an LGBTQ pride disco song that became a heavily remixed club favorite – and who went on to become a minister and AIDS activist, founding a church in Los Angeles who sought to serve the spiritual needs of gay men and other marginalized people – died Tuesday. He was 77 years old.

Unity Community Church, which he founded in 1985 and which is guided by the slogan “God is love and love is for everyone”, announced his death on his website. He did not give a cause or indicate where he died.

Mr Bean, who was openly gay from an early age, was a singer before he was a preacher and was awarded the title of Archbishop, recording gospel songs for ABC Records in the mid-1970s as frontman of the group Carl Bean and Universal Love. The Motown label had acquired the rights to “I Was Born This Way”, a song written by Bunny Jones, set to music by Chris Spierer and recorded in 1975 by a singer using the name Valentino (real name Charles Harris). The chorus said, “Oh yes I’m happy I’m carefree and I’m gay, yes I’m gay. / ‘It’s not a fault, it’s a fact, I was born that way.”

Motown asked Mr. Bean to cover him.

“I was reluctant to sign with another record company,” he told The Advocate in 1978, “but after finding out what the song was, I knew I had to do it. providence They came to me with a song that I have been looking for all my life.

The bean version, with a more pronounced disco touch and a streamlined chorus (“I’m happy, I’m carefree, and I’m gay; I was born that way”), has become a favorite in gay clubs across the country and abroad. . Some 34 years later, it inspired Lady Gaga’s # 1 hit, “Born This Way”.

Mr. Bean had considered ministry before, but the song helped him focus on that calling.

“I guess this song and its message is kind of a ministry to gay people,” he said in the 1978 interview. “I use my voice to tell gay people that they can still feel good. to be gay even though there are people like Anita Bryant around “- a reference to one of the most prominent gay rights opponents of the 1970s.

He always praised Motown for supporting the record, but, he said in a 2009 interview with the Out Alliance website, he and the company split up “when they wanted me to do songs like” Ooh girl, I love you so much “- right after they introduced me as openly gay.”

So he turned away from a musical career and into the ministry. He was ordained in 1982 by Archbishop William Morris O’Neal of the Universal Tabernacles of Christ Church and began working in Los Angeles, with a particular interest in reaching out to black gay men and other groups. who had felt undesirable in traditional Christianity. He started a Bible study group, which became the Unity Fellowship Church.

The country was in the midst of the AIDS crisis at the time, and one of its outreach efforts, the Minority AIDS Project, which he launched in 1985, focused on black and Latino residents of Los Angeles. One thing he tried to do was correct the flaws in the educational materials released by the government or predominantly white organizations, which did not register with people of color.

“You almost had to have a college degree to figure it out,” he said. told the New York Times in 1987. “We put people of color on the brochure so people couldn’t say, ‘This is none of my business. “

The effort was also aimed at overcoming cultural taboos in minority communities.

“AIDS has revealed to the world that homosexuality exists, especially for minorities,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1989. Awakening.

He became bishop of the church in 1992 and archbishop in 1999.

“Although her life and spirit inspired Lady Gaga’s iconic song ‘Born This Way'”, Barbara Satin, director of religious work at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said by email, “his real legacy will be the way he lived and the countless people his ministry has reached.”

Carl Bean was born in Baltimore on May 26, 1944. “Mum was 15, Dad was 16 and they never married,” he writes in his autobiography, “I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom, and a Ministry in Christ ”(2010), written with David Ritz.

In the book, he described his education as a community affair. “I was raised by many mothers who welcomed me and loved me completely,” he wrote, although he also described the sexual abuse committed by a man he considered to be a uncle.

Religion was important to him even as a young boy.

“I used to carry my Bible and read it on the school bus,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “And after school I went to church – c was a black Baptist church – and I was setting in the church. secretary’s office and help him with letters and things. I sang in the choir and expressed a desire to enter into the Christian ministry. I was a role model in my community.

But he also knew from an early age that he was gay, and eventually the community turned against him.

“A boy next door and I were intimate, and his parents told my parents,” he recalls in the Out Alliance interview. “I blame it.”

“I had had all this support – and suddenly I was an outcast,” he added. “I was little Carl who did well in school and could sing, et cetera. Now all of a sudden I was the bearer of shame.

When he was 13 he said, “I went to the bathroom and took all the pills from the medicine cabinet and went to my room and locked the door and wrote a note saying : “I’m sorry, I couldn’t be what you wanted me to do. to be.’ The suicide attempt resulted in sessions with a psychiatrist which Archbishop Bean said were life changing.

“She said she couldn’t teach me to be what my parents wanted, but she could teach me to accept myself and be comfortable with who I was,” he said. declared to Out Alliance.

While still a teenager, he moved to New York City, where he joined Alex Bradford’s gospel singing group. In 1972, he moved to Los Angeles.

Among the many honors Archbishop Bean has received over the years, one was awarded in 1992 by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a global organization: it named Carl Bean House, a hospice center in south of Los Angeles.

Information on the survivors was not immediately available.

In 1995, Archbishop Bean reflected on his experience as an outcast and his motivation to create an inclusive church.

“If I can help others not to have to face what I have done,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “then this is Christianity, God and love.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Carl Bean, gay singer who turned to preaching, dies at 77
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