Don’t be embarrassed if you’re unfamiliar with Jobriath. The openly gay cult figure from the hey day of glam rock ascended through the music world like a white-hot comet in the early 1970s, proclaimed as the first openly gay rock singer and earned such purple sobriquets as “the star of tomorrow” and “the American David Bowie,” before his career quickly flamed out. But after his much-hyped debut album was released to disappointing sales and mixed reviews, Jobriath’s career crashed and he died in relative obscurity in 1983 at age 37, one of the earliest casualties of AIDS.
In a decade that launched careers of the New York Dolls, the Village People and Queen, why didn’t Jobriath find mainstream superstardom? Perhaps America wasn’t yet ready for such an outrageously out rock star and Jobriath never tried to hide his gay light under a bushel. “Asking me if I’m homosexual is like asking James Brown if he’s black,” he once declared.
Yet in the 30 years since his death, a cult has sprung up around the colorful rock god and his reputation as an important artist has increased remarkably in stature. Jobriath’s legacy has been kept alive by recent releases of his albums which have acquired high-profile fans such as Morrissey, the Scissor Sisters and the Pet Shop Boys, who have spoken numerous times about the influence the late glam rocker had on their own music careers. Also keeping the flame burning is out filmmaker Kieran Turner, who has used archival footage, new interviews and animated interludes to create a vividly compelling documentary, Jobriath A.D.
“I am really excited that, on the 40th anniversary of the release of Jobriath’s first album, and thirty years after his tragic death from AIDS, a new generation of the LGBT community will discover why he was so important to both queer history and music history,” Turner tells Queerty. “As the first openly gay rock star, he kicked open the door for so many who came after him. I’m honored to be the one who gets to tell his amazing story.”
Jobriath A.D., widely acclaimed when it screened at LGBT festivals last year, will be available on VOD and iTunes December 10 and will be released in theaters January 31, 2014. It’s a don’t-miss cinematic experience for music buffs.