Patrick Haggerty, the "Grandfather of Gay Country Music," Dead at 78

In 1973 the lead singer of Lavender Country released the “world’s first gay country album."

Patrick Haggerty, the lead singer of Lavender Country, has died at the age of 78.

In 1973, Lavender Country released what would become widely known as the “world’s first gay country album," the self-titled album would lead Haggerty to be called the "grandfather of gay country music."

On Oct. 31 a statement was posted to the official Lavender Country Instagram account: "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. 💜💜💜"

As Logo previously reported, only 1,000 copies of Lavender Country were made back in 1973, but thanks to word of mouth and a cult following, the record received a loving re-release in 2014—and now holds its rightful place in LGBTQ and music history. A short documentary, These C*cksucking Tears—named after one of the songs on the album—made its debut on Vimeo in 2016 after winning the jury prize at SXSW.

Paradise of Bachelors, the label that re-issued Lavender Country's self-titled debut, also confirmed the news of Haggerty's death, tweeting: “We are heartbroken to confirm that Patrick Haggerty, the visionary songwriter, dauntless activist, and irrepressible raconteur of Lavender Country, passed away at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”

Earlier this year Lavender Country finally released its sophomore album, Blackberry Rose, which Haggerty described as an album "50 years in the writing."

Don Giovanni Records, the label that released Blackberry Rose, posted a statement on Instagram: "Patrick Haggerty was one of the funniest, kindest, bravest, and smartest people I ever met. He never gave up fighting for what he believed in, and those around him who he loved and took care of will continue that fight."

Thanks to a new generation discovering Lavender Country, Haggerty was able to crowdfund and record Blackberry Rose, and he also took his band out on the road, touring across the U.S., and he even performed and collaborated with other queer country singers like Trixie Mattel and Orville Peck.

"So sad to hear that the grandfather of queer country, Patrick Haggerty has gone up to that big gay Honky tonk in the sky," Peck posted on Instagram. "One of the funniest, bravest and kindest souls I’ve ever known, he pioneered a movement and a message in Country that was practically unheard of. A true singular legend. 💜"

Back in 2020, Mattel released her album, Barbara, featuring the song “Stranger,” which was a touching cover of Lavender Country's classic song, "I Can't Shake the Stranger Out of You." The music video for the track showed Mattel and Haggerty in the studio, recording the cover together.

"For many decades, I was the only gay country artist. And in the last 10 years especially, and even going back to the last 20 years, there’s been a complete explosion of gay country artists, many of whom I have done shows with and know and have met, and it’s really quite refreshing to see them come up," Haggerty said when Blackberry Rose hit shelves earlier this year. "And kind of how I feel about that is, ‘OK, I’m the grandfather of this genre.’ I never expected that label, but it’s what happened.”

Rest in peace, Haggerty.

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