Diana Ross‘ pop tune “I’m Coming Out” has earned its place in the pantheon of queer anthems. Now, the co-writer of the song has made a hilarious disclosure: Ross didn’t know what the song was actually about.
“She didn’t understand that that was a gay thing,” Rodgers says, “that that was a person saying, ‘I’m coming out of the closet.’ She didn’t even get that.”
Nevertheless, Ross loved the lyrics, recorded the song, and watched it become a hit single. She also watched in horror as New York DJ Frankie Crocker joked that the coming-out anthem was, well, Ross actually trying to come out. Ross confronted Rodgers in tears, accusing him of ruining her career.
Rodgers managed to calm her down, and explain the true impact of the song.
“I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen,'” Rodgers recalls. “And I even wrote a fanfare. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief.'” Ross later embraced the song, and her gay iconhood.
In another awesome twist, Rodgers also reveals that he got the idea for the song while hanging out at the Barnum Room, a predominantly transgender club in Manhattan. After seeing a group of Diana Ross impersonators, Rodgers called Edwards and told him to write down the words “I’m Coming Out.”
The rest, as they say, is queer history.