ActivismBroadwayClub CultureGay CultureGratitudeHIV/AIDSLesbianLGBT HistoryMusic

World AIDS Day 2021 – Music from Forty Years in Fighting AIDS

When AIDS struck our community, we were caught unaware, ignored by our Government, ostracized and vilified by society, with nowhere to turn but ourselves who suddenly were sick and began dying in droves.  Earlier this year, we marked forty years since The New York Times first reported “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” Life as we knew it seemed to change overnight.

Today we mark, World AIDS Day, first declared by the World Health Organization in 1988.

In tribute to the courageous who fought for funding and treatments.

The compassionate who didn’t turn their backs,

The tireless who’ve been working towards a cure,

The hopeful who are living with HIV/AIDS,

And in memory of all those we lost…

theOUTfront celebrates their lives with music


Tony Award winner Lena Hall performs the title song from Elegies For Angels Punks and Raging Queens


In 1985 when “That’s What Friends Are For” was recorded, AIDS was still widely misunderstood and stigmatizing. Spearheaded by Dionne Warwick and featuring Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder it was released as a charity single raising millions of dollars for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). The recording hit #1 in January of 1986, won two Grammy Awards including Song of the Year in 1987, and is considered the unofficial anthem in the fight against AIDS.


Longtime Companion (1989) was the first film to deal with the subject of AIDS in wide theatrical release.  Our lives, our love, our terror and grief were on full display in the middle of plague.  The film ends with a vision of what the end will look like at the “Post Mortem Bar”


Proving “love can tell a million stories,” the landmark musical, Falsettos premiered on Broadway in 1992 winning Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score. One of those is the oft overlooked story of how the “lesbians from next door” stepped up and stepped in during the AIDS crisis when so many others ran away.


The music of the AIDS pandemic reached a global audience at the 66th Academy Awards in 1994 when Bruce Springsteen performed “Streets of Philadelphia” live winning the Oscar for “Best Original Song.” It went on to received four Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year.


Especially hard hit by AIDS was the theatre industry and with few resources available to care for the sick, they came together as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  “Since 1988 [they] have raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington DC.”  Their spring fund raising drive, “The Easter Bonnet Competition” ends with this song which perfectly sums up who they are and everything they do.


There are those in our community who live for circuit parties. They have no idea that before the “circuit,” these gay dance parties were created to raise funds needed to save lives.  To all the people we danced with and danced for we conclude with this dancefloor classic.


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