This week, Berlin label Bpitch Control is releasing “Arabxilla”, the new album by Aérea Negrot; a Venezuelan artist who - produced by Tobias Freund (and previously by Hercules & Love Affair - stirs up the fire of festive and ambiguous vocal house. Aérea, for those who don't know, is a transsexual. Though of course, that's something that doesn't make any difference when it comes to making music. It made us think about which other transsexual artists have left their mark on modern music. In fact, there have been many transsexual heroes in the past decades, people who have helped bring a community to the surface; giving us some brilliant moments. To those people this list of ten is dedicated.
1. Amanda Lear
Her early years are still a mystery, but the truth is that Amanda Lear, apart from being an icon (she is the living artwork of Roxy Music's “For Your Pleasure”), has lived a life like a movie. Model, actress, writer, singer and artist. A renaissance woman, in 1975 (and backed by people like David Bowie) she started a career in music in the middle of the disco era that is still remembered thanks to anthems like “Queen Of Chinatown”, “Follow Me” and the cover version that revitalised Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”. We love to fantasise about Dalí dancing to the tunes of one of his historical muses.
2. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Genesis isn't really a transsexual. He had surgery done, changed his hair and lips and got himself a pair of plastic breasts in order to find the perfect balance with his second wife, Lady Jaye, seeking out the perfect being with masculine and feminine features (check the documentary “The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye”). The daddy of industrial music (founder of Throbbing Gristle, the band he's now left for good) just had to be on this list.
3. Wendy Carlos
A pioneer in the use of synths and close collaborator of Robert Moog in the sixties, Walter Carlos (who would later change his name to Wendy) achieved the unimaginable with his first album, “Switched-On Bach”: to record one of the first electronic albums with Moog versions of Bach pieces. Later, at the service of Stanley Kubrick, she recorded the soundtracks for “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining” (and she received a request from Disney to put analogue sounds to the original “Tron”). Carlos' name is now part of the list of pioneers who laid the foundations for electronic music as we know it today.
"A Clockwork Orange Soundtrack"
4. Catherine Christer Hennix
Composer, philosopher, plastic artist and scientist. Catherine Christer Hennix was one of the pioneers of drone music, before she moved to Berlin. Exploring the sound and ambient possibilities of instruments, she built her own universe with compositions like “The Electric Harpsichord”, recently reissued by Die Schatel.
5. Gordon Sharp
He refused to join Duran Duran because he didn't feel identified in what the new romantic band represented. Gordon Sharp was already completely absorbed by his personal project, Cindytalk, focussing on intoxicated moods and digital noise. Had he accepted the invitation, the Scot's name would most likely have gained weight in pop, but we wouldn't have had the pleasure of enjoying his experimental music and career. Built over the past three decades, it has recently given us two albums on Austrian label Editions Mego. "Cindytalk originals"
6. Pete Burns
Pete Burns shocked British society way before Boy George claimed men's rights to paint themselves any way they want. His life is a soap opera, in fact: the former leader of Dead Or Alive has suffered several bouts of depression, suicide attempts and failed love affairs. Addicted to plastic surgery (one operation left his lips in shambles), he jumped the “Big Brother” bandwagon and once again became the talk of the town.
French actress and singer Coccinelle made history in 1958, as the first public figure to undergo a sex change. The operation in Casablanca was a watershed moment for the transsexual community, for which she fought all of her life. To this day, her legacy helps people who wish to change their sex.
8. Amanda Lepore
Lepore is much more than David LaChapelle's diva. The American is all business. Any of her public appearances involved big cheques, as if she were a transgender version of Paris Hilton. After years of being the face of Heatherette, she decided to make her debut in the field of cinema (in “Party Monster”) and music, with several EPs and an album, “I… Amanda Lepore”, a more than lucrative guilty pleasure.
9. Dana International
We remember the Eurovision Song Contest of 1998 as if it were yesterday. That night, a young Israeli woman called Dana International made history thanks to “Diva”; becoming the first transsexual ever to win a competition that large. She had to face criticism in her own country, although nobody could deny her success. She tried to represent her country again this year, but sadly she didn't get past the semifinals.
10. Terre Thaemlitz
We're ending the list citing Terre Thaemlitz; one of the big names in experimental music over the past two decades who is a queer activist and ambiguous about his sex (we never found out if he did the complete sex change or if he's “just” a transvestite). Always versatile in his productions - alternating buoyant house (under the moniker DJ Sprinkles), ambient, political field recordings and music for piano - his three albums include stand out cover versions of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and Devo. "Ball'r" (Madonna-free zone) In the wake of Aérea Negrot's debut album release; we bring you a short overview of the transgender artists who have made the community visible through their music over the years.