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Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” was Inspired by Drag Queens, Says She "Didn't Know It was a Gay Thing"

One of Diana Ross’ most legendary records has a pretty interesting backstory. 

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who produced this masterpiece, recently sat down with NY Post and talked about the origin of the record. 

“That was our very first time ever producing a star,” says Rodgers. “Not only was it a star, it was, like, the star.” But Rodgers and Edwards helped make her an even bigger star. Ross’ classic “Diana” album — released 40 years ago, went on to become the best-selling LP of her career.

Of course, this album houses one of her biggest hits to date, "I'm Coming Out".

To pull off this classic album, Rodgers and Edwards “interviewed” Ross before writing any songs.

“For two days she told us her life story, as if we were writing a magazine article,” says Rodgers. “And then we went and we wrote the album. Basically, the reason why it’s just called ‘Diana’ is it’s a documentary.”

“I’m Coming Out,” was the second single off of the album. This hit was inspired after Rodgers saw a bunch of “Diana Ross impersonators” in the bathroom at GG’s Barnum Room, a predominantly transgender club in midtown Manhattan. 

“All of a sudden a lightbulb goes off in my head,” he says. “I had to go outside and call Bernard from a telephone booth. I said, ‘Bernard, please write down the words: ‘I’m coming out.’ And then I explained the situation to him. ”Ross immediately loved the song, connecting with the empowering lyrics: “The time has come for me to break out of this shell/I have to shout that I am coming out.”

“But she didn’t understand that that was a gay thing, that that was a person saying, ‘I’m coming out of the closet,” says Rodgers. “She didn’t even get that.”At least not until Ross played the song for influential WBLS DJ Frankie Crocker. “He thought that that would be Diana saying that she was gay,” says Rodgers.

Rodgers convinced Ross to stick with the song anyway. He really sold the song as the perfect concert opener to make a grand entrance for the rest of her life. “I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen,’ ” he says. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief.’ ”

Gaye’s, we definitely learned something new today! Did you?


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