Even though the closest I’ve gotten to the music biz is buying CD’s here and there, I have a message for country singer Chely Wright: You go, girl!
It doesn’t so much relate to her songs or a voice as warm and melodic as slow dripping maple syrup. It relates to her courage and integrity.
With fear and trepidation, she came out and admitted that she is gay. For many people living in a homophobic world, this must be hard enough, but for someone working in a homophobic field like country music, it must have been pure hell.
Yet, there is only so much you can hide and try turning yourself into something you aren’t. The loud kid in school is always going to be the loud kid somewhere, and the shy person is always going to be somewhat shy as well. My uncle used, who to be an elementary school principal, said that a kid that was sent to his office for talking out of turn became a millionaire by developing shopping centers. It made sense because the boy was probably outgoing and a budding wheeler and dealer even then. The studious kid on my block not only got a full-paid scholarship to study law at Northwestern University, but who was paid just for studying there. No one was surprised because he was just being who he was.
That’s how great artists happen. No one could have taught Yitzhak Perlman how to become a musician because he already was. The same for Vincent Van Gough or Mark Twain or Lady Gaga or any of them.
Chely Wright knew two things early on. She knew that she was gay and she knew that she wanted to be a country singer. Growing up in a conservative Christian town in Kansas, she also knew that she had to hide who she was if she wanted to get anywhere. She felt awkward after getting a crush on a female teacher in elementary school, so she prayed to be cured. “Please don’t let me be gay,” she prayed several times a day. “Please take it away.”
But a person’s basic nature can’t be changed, and so it remained.
After becoming a chart-topping country singer, she became so despondent after years of denying who she was that she almost committed suicide. With a loaded gun in her mouth, she prayed one last time, but her prayer changed. “G-d, give me a moment’s peace.”
“I didn’t hear G-d’s voice,” she said. “I didn’t see a guy in a white robe. But I heard G-d say what he’d been whispering in my ear all along, ‘I expect one thing of you, and that’s to tell the truth.’”
She said a feeling of calm came over her, and she put the gun down.
By telling the truth, Chely Wright not only saved her own life, but probably the lives of others, who never harmed anyone, yet in their quest for love are falsely ashamed of who they are. Her life’s mission may have been to sing, but it’s really much more than that.