Patrick Haggerty, Regarded as the First Openly Gay Country Music Singer, Dead at 78

by Suzanne Halliburton
Jim Bennett/Getty Images

Patrick Haggerty, the front man for Lavender Country and the first openly gay country music singer, died Monday several weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 78.

The official Instagram page for Lavender Country announced the sad passing of the charismatic Haggerty, who entertained audiences for decades. The photo the band shared showed Patrick Haggerty on stage, greeting those who’d come to hear him perform.

“This morning, we lost a great soul. RIP Patrick Haggerty,” the post read. “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.” The caption closed with three lavender hearts.

Patrick Haggerty Released Gay-Themed Country Album in 1973

The Journal of Country Music reported that Lavender Country released the first gay-themed country album all the way back in 1973. Appropriately, the group named the album “Lavender Country.” And it featured some bawdy songs, like “Come Out Singing” and “Cryin’ These C*cks***ing Tears.” The Gay Community Social Services of Seattle funded the album. But the group ordered only 1,000 to sell.

Here’s who else was in the group: Besides Patrick Haggerty, Michael Carr played keyboard and Eve Morris was a singer who also was on the fiddle. Robert Hammerstrom was the group’s guitarist. However, Lavender Country didn’t record a lot from the studio. Back in 2000, the group repackaged three songs from the original album, plus recorded two new ones and called the work Lavender Country Revisited. Haggerty self-released an album called Blackberry Rose in 2019. But it wasn’t picked up for a full release until earlier this year.

The Country Music Hall of Fame shared a photo of Haggerty and tweeted that the singer “broke barriers as one of the first openly gay country artists and was known by some as “the Godfather of Queer Country.”

Times across the country certainly changed between then and now. But it’s only been the last decade or so that country musicians have felt comfortable enough to publicly confirm they were gay. Sam Williams, the youngest child of country legend Hank Williams Jr, came out late last month in a music video.

Several Country Singers Came Out as Gay Within Last Dozen Years

In February 2021, TJ Osborne of Grammy-winning group Brothers Osborne announced that he was gay. He became the first openly gay singer signed to a major country music label. Others like Chely Wright and Ty Herndon enjoyed big careers in the 1990s then came out within the last decade. But Patrick Haggerty was the trailblazer.

Patrick Haggerty was a singer and a long-time activist. Even as he got older, himself, he’d volunteer at elder care centers. He’d sing the songs requested by the patients or residents.

In an interview with Pitchfork earlier this year, Patrick Haggerty said: “It’s really quite astonishing, to have come full circle and realize that my anti-fascist work and my art get to be combined into the same me. I get to go out on stage and be a screaming Marxist b—h, use all of my artistry and hambonedness to do my life’s work. I get to be exactly who I am.”