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.


  1. I've been hearing this song again recently on Sirius radio. I too was very young when it first came out so had no clue what they were referring to. But when I listen to it today yes, first I thought it was about a gay male couple but then towards the end when he says, "I know we both love her and I guess we always will", I then thought it was a father speaking to a future son-in-law and the "girl" was his daughter.
    Could this song have a double meaning or was Jim Stafford trying to intentionally confuse us and therefore the song could mean whatever you wanted it to?

    1. I believe he was trying to play with the shock and horror listeners would get when they concluded that it was a gay couple, only to have them relieved when it was two guys in love with the same girl. Sort of like the opposite of queerbaiting.

    2. Probably not the girl's father and boyfriend, since fathers don't usually get very upset at their daughters' finding a boyfriend, nor would the boyfriend say "you'll have to find another."


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