Lavender Country's Patrick Haggerty, singer and pioneering gay rights activist, dies at 78
Patrick Haggerty and the band were part of Seattle's gay liberation movement and brought queer themes into music as early as the 70s
The Seattle Times reports that the legendary singer died of complications from the stroke, which had left him in the hospital ever since. The death was confirmed by Haggerty's family friend Jack Moriarty and Lavender Country’s label, Don Giovanni records.
Haggerty used his career to push for gay rights and is also credited with releasing what was the first gay-themed country album all the way back in the 70s. However, Haggerty took a decade-long break after the release of the first album by his band. He then went on to perform multiple gigs for years, until a much more liberal younger generation listened to his album and hailed him as a gay-rights icon.
At the time of their release, Lavender Country’s songs were never given much reverence by those who were not part of Seattle’s gay liberation activism movement. And even that crowd only heard the band play in local shows, until the show’s first sanctioned Pride event took place in 1974, which drew a crowd of about 400 - a big number, considering gay rights weren't yet socially accepted at the time. With a limited audience and the band members needing better sources of income, the band dissolved in 1976.
In an interview earlier this year, Haggerty, who held a master's degree in social work, had said, “I didn’t do music for many decades, because Lavender Country put a scarlet letter on my back and I was untouchable for a long time. So, I went and had another life.”
In 2014, one of Lavender Country’s albums was reissued by a record label and the music suddenly took flight. The album was largely appreciated for the cultural significance of the music and for pioneering what were some risky themes at the time of its release. Haggerty was praised for being ahead of his conservative time and for celebrating sexual freedom in a way that was foreign in the 70s.
During his recent shows, Haggerty often took a moment out to recognize and acknowledge his partner of over 35 years, Julius Broughton. Haggerty also had two children, Amilcar Navarro and Robin Boland.