Between the disaster that is 20 20 and losing too many lives to various causes (natural and un) I’ve been spending time contemplating a couple of projects- blending ‘Bucket List’ goals and kind of ‘Make A (dying) Wish’ ideas. Today I’d like to talk about just one. I want very much to experience a major tribute to the songs and performances of Romanovsky & Phillips.
“Who are they?” you ask.
An Introduction to Romanovsky & Phillips
Singers/songwriters Ron Romanovsky & Paul Phillips played an integral part in the gay rights movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s, performing at hundreds of gay pride events and community and AIDS fundraisers, and headlining at dozens of music clubs, theaters, and concert halls throughout the country. Often they were the first gay act to get mainstream press coverage in dozens of Mid-American cities and towns,
These pioneering activists/entertainers were the first openly gay male musical act to tour extensively throughout the United States and Canada from 1982 to 1999. This music and comedy duo released six albums of their original songs on their own Fresh Fruit Records label, performed sixty to ninety concerts a year at the height of their career, and appeared in concert in over one hundred cities in forty-four states and five Canadian provinces, as well as on the main stage at both the 1987 and the 1993 National Marches on Washington for LGBT Rights.
They’ve frequently been left out or marginalized in mainstream narratives of gay history due to the fact that much of their career was made in the Heartland of the U.S., rather than in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. R&P’s music and influence inspired thousands of ordinary, everyday folks throughout the country to come out, get involved, and live proudly as GLBT people.
Regular readers (and followers of my various social media accounts) know that I am an uber-fan. I run their Facebook page, the only official merch shop (t-shirts, mugs and more), updated their website, published 1 Out of 10 Therapists: The Poetry of Romanovsky & Phillips Lyrics and offer Wimp– as a kernel of an idea for a musical.
But that’s not enough. (Oh btw neither Ron nor Paul were warned about this post; ‘Better to ask forgiveness than permission’ when going after a big ask.)
What would a ‘major tribute’ look like?
A truly HUGE tribute would be a live concert later released as a concert DVD. In light of how many folks are resistant to taking covid-19 seriously, such an event is unlikely for years. A studio/home studio (multiple individual sessions) CD is probably much more doable. Having a CD of R&P covers by a mix of new and established singers (heavy on LGBT/Queer representation and activist performers) would still be a dream come true.
Who would I like to see? Well, I don’t really listen to many ‘underground’ artists, so don’t have many names to drop. But I have no doubt there are plenty of great singers who could do R&P’s catalogue justice. Feel free to pass this idea along.
As for singers who’s work I do know, I have thoughts.
To be clear I’m speaking as a private individual with neither the funds nor permissions to start such a project. I am a fan, ruminating on what I would love to have happen and putting this out to the universe. No idea who’s under contract where, if any of these folks are interested, or all the intricacies of making this happen (although clearly there would be plenty of details to be wrangled). Here are some names and suggested songs:
Alan Cummings- I Like To Polka;
Buffy Ste Marie- Be Political, Not Polite;
Eric Milligan- Red Moon Over Boston;
Holly Near- The Woman Next Door;
Ivan Coyote- We’ll Begin Again;
Janis Ian- Living In The Nuclear Age;
Margaret Cho- Don’t Use Your Penis For A Brain;
Matt Alber- Once Upon A Time;
Paul Williams- Love Is All It Takes;
Rae Spoon- The Perfect Crime;
Rufus Wainright- Le Jardin de Bernadette;
Sandy & Richard Riccardi- Carnival People;
Steve Grand- Closing Chapter;
Tom Goss- Boys In The Rain.