As part of its 2020 Pride Issue, Billboard is spotlighting the experiences of artists and executives working in genres that are not always included in conversations about Pride in the music industry. Here, iconic metal screamer Rob Halford of Judas Priest gives some insight into being closeted in the '70s and '80s and coming out on MTV in the '90s.
Obviously, there have been gay metalheads since metal was invented, but [back in the 1970s and ’80s] we were invisible. After a Priest show, a lot of us went back to working at the Ford plant or a Walgreens or working as a schoolteacher, but we were gay. We had to hide, basically.
There was a time when disco music was huge, and for a lot of gay people and minorities, that was our music. We embraced it and danced to it, and we expressed ourselves with joy. But then there was a rock DJ who had [Disco Demolition Night in 1979 in Chicago] where you went to a stadium and burned disco music. The vast majority of the people who burned that music were rockers and metalheads, and I remember that was really upsetting. It was all wrapped up in the psychosis of "disco music is for gays, disco music is for black people." It was a very xenophobic expression, with gay people included in the whole mix of things.