R.I.P. Carl Bean

Archbishop Carl Bean who became famous for the 1977  disco hit and gay pride anthem “Born This Way” died at age 77 on September 7th after a long illness. Bean was a native of New Jersey but relocate to Los Angeles in the early ’70s. He started his singing career recording gospel music as Carl Bean and Universal Love. He covered “Born This Way” for Motown after they approached him and he was eager to do it because the lyrics spoke to his own life experience. His version of the song which was previously recorded in 1975 by Motown singer Valentino made him the first openly gay artist with the company. The label wanted to give him a full-time recording career but he declined because he did not feel comfortable making heterosexual love songs after singing “Born This Way.” Bean left the music industry and became an ordained minister in 1982 with a focus on reaching out to Black gay people who felt disconnected from the church. 

The work he did with the ministry eventually evolved into the Los Angeles based Unity Fellowship Church. This church went national and was the first for the Black gay and lesbian community. In 1985, he started The Minority A.I.D.S. Project to help members of the Black and Latino communities living with A.I.D.S. in Los Angeles. Bean actually went into the hospitals to help patients with food and essentials as well as uplifting words at a time when the country including health professionals treated the patients like lepers.  

By 1999 he had moved from being a reverend to a bishop and then an archbishop. In 2010, his autobiography with David Ritz I Was Born This Way was published. In the spring of 2021, the mayor of West Hollywood said that May 23rd was Born This Way Day to acknowledge Lady Gaga’s second album. She used this opportunity to let everyone know that she got the title and inspiration from Archbishop Carl Bean. 

Bean was a proud pioneer who ministered to his community for the rest of his life because he believed that “God Is Love And Love Is For Everyone.”