Diana Ross’ 1980 classic anthem, ‘I’m Coming Out’, is undoubtedly one of the biggest LGBTQ anthems of all time. But, in a new interview with Yahoo! Music, music legend Niles Rodgers revealed that Ross was cautioned against releasing the song.
Rodgers was first inspired to write the song after he went to a nightclub where he saw a lot of Diana Ross impersonators. He was floored to see that she had a big LGBT fan base. A light bulb went off and he immediately called up his longtime musical partner, Bernard Edwards.
“I thought, “Wait a minute. If I write a song for Diana Ross and talk about a disenfranchised part of her fan base and sort of make it for them, this would be an important record,” Rodgers explained. “No one thinks of Diana Ross necessarily on the frontlines of this, but [the gay] community and her [gay] fans love her and idolize her.”
When they presented the record to Ross, she loved the song the instant she heard it.
“We never delved into the meaning or why we wrote it — until she played it for Frankie Crocker, who had now become the No. 1 radio personality in the world. She left our studio floating on air, she just loved her album, but when she played it for Frankie, it was not a good experience. He told her it would ruin her career,” Rodgers said. Ross came back to the recording studio, “crestfallen and “heartbroken,” where she asked Rodgers and Edwards, “Why are you guys trying to ruin my career?”
Rodgers recollected, “We could see she was brokenhearted. And we said, “Diana, come on now. If we really ruin your career, we're ruining our career! You're already Diana Ross. We’re just starting out. Why would we want to go down in history as the guys who ruined Diana Ross’s career?’”
He continued, “She may have misconstrued the idea when Frankie Crocker told her what “I'm coming out” meant — that she thought we were trying to imply that she was gay. Nothing of the sort.”
Fortunately, Ross came around and ultimately released the song in 1980. Even Crocker “wound up playing this record like crazy” when it came out, Rodgers noted.
“We didn't expect it to last this long. But when Bernard and I finished writing it, I said, ‘This song may go gold, just via the gay community alone,’” Rodgers, adding they’re “thrilled” the song still resonants 40 years later. “I’m Coming Out” is one of Ross’ enduring hits. It was an immediate hit upon release, peaking at No. 5 on Billboard.
(Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)