1980s Gay Rock Stars

By Nancy Hayden ; Updated September 15, 2017

The 1980s was a decade for freedom of expression in music. From alternative to heavy metal, artists wore makeup and gender-bending styles. This artistic openness was juxtaposed with the fact that the 80s were a rather closed-off decade regarding homosexuality. Uneducated fears about AIDS cast gays in a negative light, and many artists who are openly gay today lived under a shadow of "don't ask, don't tell" in the 80s.

Elton John

Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in the U.K. in 1947. He had a breakout hit in 1970 with "Your Song." He declared his bisexual status in the 1970s, which was a ground-breaking announcement. During the 1980s, Elton continued to be a force on the music scene, with hits like "I'm Still Standing." Elton went on to marry his partner, David Furnish, when the first gay marriages were legalized.

Freddy Mercury

Freddy Mercury was born Farookh Bulsara in Tanzania in 1946. Mercury was the front man for the rock band Queen, who had huge hits in the 1970s and 80s with songs like "We Are the Champions" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." Mercury was open about being a bisexual by the mid-1980s, but did not discuss his personal relationships in great detail. In 1991, Mercury announced he was HIV positive and had AIDS. The next day, November 24 1991, Freddy Mercury died at the age of 45.

Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe was born in Georgia in 1960. As the lead singer of the alternative rock band, R.E.M., which formed in 1980, Stipe had a hand in giving the world such hits as "Stand" and "Shiny, Happy People." Stipe had long been guarded about his private life, preferring to keep interviews about the band and its music. In 2001, Stipe announced publicly he was gay and that he had been in a committed relationship for three years.

Boy George

Boy George was born George Alan O'Dowd in England in 1961. In the 1980s, he was the lead singer of the alternative band Culture Club. The band had hits with songs like "Karma Chameleon" and "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" He was widely known for his androgynous fashion choices and gender-bending behavior. Boy George was deliberately coy with direct media questions regarding his sexuality until finally coming out officially in 2006.

George Michael

George Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, was born in England in 1963. During the 1980s, he had success in the rock duo Wham! and with a solo career. With Wham!, Michael had hits like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." On his own he had hits like "Faith" and "Careless Whisper." In 1998, Michael was arrested in Los Angeles for "engaging in a lewd act" with another man in public. He then acknowledged his homosexuality. He has been in a relationship and lived with partner Kenny Goss since 1996.