‘I Was Born This Way’ singer Carl Bean has died at 77

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Gospel Musician and Minister Directly Inspired Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’

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American gospel artist and minister Carl Bean, best known for singing the gay pride anthem ‘I Was Born This Way’, has died at the age of 77.

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The news was confirmed by representatives of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a denomination founded by Bean that welcomed predominantly black LGBTQ+ worshipers.

The church said in itself Statement That Bean “transformed to eternal life” on 7 September after a long period of illness.

“Archbishop Bean worked tirelessly to uphold the faith of the underprivileged and LGBTQ people,” the statement said, “and in doing so, helped many people around the world return to spirituality and religion.”

“As we mourn the loss of this pioneering leader and legend in the worlds of activism, advocacy, AIDS, community outreach, faith, liberation theology and more, we mourn for all and will live for many more lives.”

Born in Baltimore in 1944, Bean left for New York City at the age of 16 to escape a difficult home life—where he claimed he was sexually abused as a child by his uncle, and his Was rejected by the family for being gay.

Pursuing a gospel singing career, Bean again moved to Los Angeles and formed the band Carl Bean and Universal Love, attracting the attention of Motown Records.

In 1977, for Motown, Bean released a rendition of ‘I Was Born This Way’ – a song written by Chris Spear and Bunny Jones and performed by Valentino for the first time.

With its strong themes of LGBTQ pride (“I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay / I was born this way“), Bean’s version – which is considered the definitive recording – remains popular, and has been remixed several times since its release.

Notably, the song served as the foundation for Lady Gaga’s hit ‘Born This Way’, the title track of her 2011 album. Over the next decade, Gaga regularly cited Bean’s influence on ‘Born This Way’.

In May of this year, Gaga paid tribute to Bean on the album’s tenth anniversary, writing that the song and album were directly inspired by Bean.

“Thank you for the decades of relentless love, bravery and reason to sing,” she wrote. “Therefore we can all feel joy, because we deserve joy. Because we all deserve the right to inspire tolerance, acceptance and freedom.”

Bean was ordained a minister in 1982, and that same year founded the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, explicitly welcoming queer, Black parishioners.

An activist, she founded the Minority AIDS Project in Los Angeles in 1985, providing accessible healthcare for low-income black and Latino HIV+ people.

In its statement, the Unity Fellowship said details of a memorial service for Bean would follow, and honored the minister with its mantra: “God is love and love is for all!”

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