Groundbreaking Openly Gay Country Singer Patrick Haggerty Dies at 78

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Patrick Haggerty, who released the first “out” gay country album under the band name Lavender Country, died Monday, October 31. He was 78.

Haggerty died from a stroke he suffered weeks ago, his band’s official Facebook page revealed, adding, “This morning, we lost a great soul. RIP Patrick Haggerty. After suffering a stroke several weeks ago, he was able to spend his final days at home surrounded by his kids and lifelong husband, JB. Love, and solidarity. 💜💜💜

Not only was Haggerty an advocate for queer rights, but he also fought for working-class people. Forgotten for decades since releasing the Lavender Country self-titled debut LP in 1973, Haggerty and his band enjoyed a resurgence as of late with the rise in awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ musicians and their importance in the grander musical landscape.

Founded in 1972, Lavender Country, based in Seattle, Washington, released its first openly gay album a year later. The band originally consisted of Haggerty, keyboardist Michael Carr, fiddle player Eve Morris and guitarist Robert Hammerstrom.

The band released its second LP, Blackberry Rose, earlier this year. Over the years, only Haggerty remained a consistent member.

Growing up, Haggerty was the sixth of 12 children. He has said in interviews that his cowboy father was very accepting of his identity, even as a young queer child who liked to dress up in ladies’ clothing. In an interview, he began to weep thinking about the kindness of his father, which helped him to have the confidence to later become a groundbreaking artist.

In recent years, Haggerty’s songs, which range from the heartfelt and humorous to the piercingly honest, have gained attention, including from the famous drag artist Trixie Mattel, who covered Lavender Country in the song, “Stranger.”

Roots musician Jake Blount, who also identifies as queer, wrote of Haggerty’s passing on Twitter. “Heartbroken to hear of the passing of Patrick Haggerty, creator of Lavender Country, the first queer country album. Patrick was an elder and a musical hero to my generation of queer country artists—and special to me because he was a relative of my family through marriage.”

Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images

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