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Lavender Country’s Patrick Haggerty Dies at 78

1 November 2022 | 10:51 am | Emma Whines

Haggerty is considered to be the first man to make an openly gay country album.

Patrick Haggerty, the founder of the proudly queer country band Lavender Country, has died. The 78-year-old pioneer died on Monday (October 31) after suffering a stroke a few weeks ago.

The band took to their social media pages today to announce the tragedy.   

"This morning, we lost a great soul. RIP Patrick Haggerty. After suffering a stroke several weeks ago, he was able to spend his final days at home surrounded by his kids and lifelong husband, JB. Love, and solidarity." 

Haggerty led what was considered to be the first openly gay country band, Lavender Country. Their 1973 self-titled album was the vessel that pioneered their queer cause and is believed to be the first of its kind. With songs such as Come Out Singing and Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears, the group denied the strong oppressive conservatism that was, and in some cases still is, rampant throughout the country scene.

The album eventually faded into obscurity until a 2014 reissue from the label Paradise of Bachelors, which brought new attention to Haggerty’s groundbreaking work. Haggerty self-released a second Lavender Country album, Blackberry Rose, in 2019, which Don Giovanni Records reissued widely earlier this year.

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In a post on the label's Instagram, Giovanni wrote: “Patrick Haggerty was one of the funniest, kindest, bravest, and smartest people I ever met. He never gave up fighting for what he believed in, and those around him who he loved and took care of will continue that fight."

Growing up on a dairy farm near Port Angeles, Washington, Haggerty knew he was gay from a young age. He credits his father with a rare open-mindedness for that time and, in a recording for StoryCorps, recounts a formative school encounter where his father advised him not to hide who he was.

Haggerty dedicated his life to social justice activism, becoming a passionate advocate for gay rights, anti-racist justice, tenants’ rights, and more. He was an active member in the AIDS justice organisation ACT UP with his husband of more than 30 years and ran for a city council position twice.

In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Haggerty reflected on his long career. 

“It’s really quite astonishing, to have come full circle and realize that my anti-fascist work and my art get to be combined into the same me,” he said. “I get to go out on stage and be a screaming Marxist bitch, use all of my artistry and hambonedness to do my life’s work. I get to be exactly who I am.”