Patrick Haggerty has been waiting a long time for the rest of the world to catch up with him. Fifty years ago, he assembled a bunch of queer friends from around Seattle to make a scrappy country album that broke from the heterosexual strictures of the genre. With songs like “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears” and “Come Out Singing,” the gleefully gay Lavender Country landed in 1973. But without any commercial or critical recognition—not to mention the era’s conservative politics—the self-released record remained a footnote in Haggerty’s life until 2014, when the label Paradise of Bachelors reissued it to a more progressive generation. He finally hit the road at age 70, a long overdue victory lap that secured him his laurels while he’s around to enjoy them.
Speaking from his current home in Bremerton, Washington, Haggerty is eager to share stories from the years he spent doing everything but Lavender Country. He’s lived a busy, rewarding life as an activist, organizer, and social worker, campaigning against homophobia, apartheid, and capitalism at large. He was particularly busy working with the AIDS advocacy organization ACT UP, building solidarity within the gay community while sewing anti-fascist, anti-racist, and pro-labor messaging into his outreach efforts. “It’s really quite astonishing, to have come full circle and realize that my anti-fascist work and my art get to be combined into the same me,” Haggerty tells me. “I get to go out on stage and be a screaming Marxist bitch, use all of my artistry and hambonedness to do my life’s work. I get to be exactly who I am.”
Though Haggerty grew up on a dairy farm in rural Washington, amid a large Catholic family, he had a uniquely supportive home environment. His father consistently encouraged his son to be his fully exuberant self, even when that meant heaps of glitter and tulle. “My dad said I could wear a ballerina outfit at 4-H camp and make blonde wigs out of twine to play like I had long hair with my sisters—being really brazen and sissy in the 1950s in a very rural setting, all because my dad said I could,” says Haggerty. “I like to say the reason that I made Lavender Country when I made it was because my dad said I could.”
Instead of taking a band on the road to tout the Lavender Country reissue, Haggerty recruited local musicians in pick-up bands for dates around the country—meeting the newest generation of young people eager to learn from an extraordinary originator. Ever since, he’s found himself answering to public attention he’d never anticipated. The lasting power behind the Lavender Country resurgence set Haggerty on the road to a second album, Blackberry Rose, where he expands from themes of gay liberation to include more narrative songs about love and justice. The crowdfunded effort that first arrived in 2019 has now gotten a formal release via the DIY stalwarts at Don Giovanni, along with a new documentary short.