“Some day he’ll come along, the man I love.” It’s is a classic pop lyric, from “The Man I Love,” by George and Ira Gershwin. It was written for the musician brothers’ 1924 musical revue, Lady Be Good.
Back then, the song was known as “The Girl I Love.” But pre Broadway opening the torchy ballad was deleted from the show. Later retooled as “The Man I Love,” this pop classic was also scratched from the Gershwin Brothers’ 1927 anti war satire, Strike Up the Band.
One year later, the song once again failed to make the final cut in the Ziegfeld triumph, Rosalie. For “The Man I Love,” it was three strikes and you’re out on the Great White Way, but Hollywood put the song into orbit, and into the Great American Song Book, when it made the Gershwin tune the basis for a 1947 screen trifle, The Man I Love, starring Ida Lupino and Bruce Bennett.
Since then, the song has been covered by hundreds of artists, ranging from Billie Holliday and Lena Horne, to Joni Mitchell, Donna Summer, Beyonce, and Diane Schuur.
But whenever it is performed by a male artist, even an out, gay male artist, the song reverts to its 1924, “The Girl I Love,” incarnation.
Why is that? We are living in 2016, and not in the 1920s, when the ballad was penned. Back then; homosexuality was illegal in many places around the world.
Today, in America, and in twenty-something other countries worldwide, gay marriage is the law of the land.
So why is it that most out gay recording artists, including veteran chart toppers such as Frank Ocean, Mika, Ricky Martin, Lance Bass, and George Michael are still compelled to sing “The Girl I Love,” or the gender neutral, “The One I Love?” when recording “The Man I Love,” and other love songs?
Quite simply, the powers that be at most mainstream recording companies have yet to catch up with the gay civil rights movement, and these major label moguls believe the same is true about the people who buy their music.
One example: When British singer-songwriter, Sam Smith, covered Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” for Sirius XM, gender pronouns were eliminated: nowhere to be heard – gone away as if they had never existed. Similarly when Smith did the energetic “There’s a Boy! I know! He’s the one I dream of!” The lyric morphed into “Oh, it’s you.” It kind of, sort of, worked, but for an out gay singer to avoid the issue, and the pronouns, was disappointing to listeners, who expect something real and truthful – a slice of authenticity – from gay artists such as Smith.
Not that they should. Smith’s breakthrough recording, “Stay With Me,” was about his unrequited love for a straight guy. But the song never strayed from its gender-neutral stance.
In numerous interviews, the out and often outrageous Adam Lambert has commented upon why gay and lesbian artists with major label affiliations have two choices, neither of them enlightened. For the most part, they can either keep things gender neutral, or they can record with the original heterosexual pronouns intact.
As Lambert has put it: “The moguls in the music industry are the reason why there are still hang-ups about gay pop stars singing love songs about other men.”
It’s another story for out gay artists – Steve Grand, of thee we sing – who record for independent labels.
And it remains to be seen how “Music With A Twist,” the recently announced new Sony label formed to develop gay, lesbian, and transgender artists, will handle this issue.
But for the time being, out gay artists with major recording companies will continue to sing, “ Some day, someone will come along, the person I love,” or even, “Some day, she’ll come along, the girl I love.”
Despair not, folks! As Bob Dillon wrote many decades ago, “The times, they are a changin’.”
Pity that the change is so painfully slow in coming.