Oct 6, 2014

Homophobic Moments in Music: My Girl, Bill

In the spring of 1974, while I was arguing about Freedom to Marry in Mrs. Dunn's class at Washington Junior High, a ballad-style song by Jim Stafford called "My Girl, Bill" began  playing on KSTT radio.  But not for long.  Parents and preachers started screaming, and radio stations cut it from the air, and record stores yanked it from the shelves.

In order to find out what all the fuss was about, my boyfriend Dan and I had to wait until his album, Jim Stafford, appeared.

We still didn't understand.  It seemed to be a straightforward song about two men who are in love with the same women.  They meet to talk things through.  The narrator says: "I know that we both love her, and I guess we always will, but you're going to have to find another, because she's my girl, Bill."

What was the problem?  Maybe parents got riled because it mentions wine?

Two years later, when I figured out what gay people were, I realized that Jim Stafford was playing a trick on listeners: the comma was inaudible, so they thought that Bill was "my girl," a gay relationship was being described.  Unthinkable in 1974!

Of course, gay men never referred to their partners as "my girl."  In the 1970s, the most common terms were "my lover" or "my boyfriend."  It was only clueless heterosexuals who imagined that gay relationships must be divided on gender lines, with "a boy" and "a girl."

I don't know who was more homophobic: Jim Stafford, with his  nasty "joke," or the audience, who got all riled over the possibility that two men might be in love.

Stafford hasn't had a charting song since "Turn Loose of My Leg" hit #98 in 1977, but apparently he's still performing in Branson, Missouri.  I wonder if "My Girl, Bill" is still part of his repertoire.

See also: Discovering what "Gay" Means; and 12 Songs I Hate.

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