Jobriath: An American Tragedy

By Robert Cochrane

Biography of the world's first openly gay pop star.

Biography | LGBTQ+
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"Jobriath was braver, mysterious and more ‘out there' than any of the so-called 'Glam Rock’ artists of the early 1970’s. He was the real thing and at the same time his own special creation, a secret shared amongst a few who understood. 

Vilified and ridiculed by the press, it made me love him more. Going through my turbulent adolescent school days, I knew what ridiculed and vilified meant. He wrote a collection of beautiful songs that somehow didn’t fit in with this world though he managed to present them from his own gaudy and rich interior one." Marc Almond

Jobriath: An American Tragedy is the first ever full length biography of Jobriath aka Bruce Wayne Campbell 1946-1983, rock's first openly gay performer. His tale is one of hope, ambition and tragedy.

His first taste of notoriety happened in the late sixties, when he was plucked out of west coast counter-culture to appear as Woof in the original cast of 'Hair'. He moved to New York with Miss Mercy, a member of the GTO’s (the famous groupies) and was initially signed by Michael Jeffries, Hendrix's manager (who sadly died in a plane crash) and later by Jerry Brandt who'd previously managed Carly Simon. Brandt made exaggerated claims, too many for a talented unknown to fulfil. There were billboards in Times Square and projected shows at La Scala, Covent Garden and The Paris Opera that were pulled. A huge stage was built but never toured, eventually it was bought by Bowie for the 'David Live' shows.

His two albums were produced by Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady and featured guest appearances from John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Peter Frampton. Neither were commercial successes. After his few years in the spotlight he became a lounge singer called Cole Berlin. Just prior to his death, aged 36, in the Chelsea Hotel, Frank Sinatra wanted to cover one of his compositions. His was the first internationally known death to Aids. Sinatra never got his song.

Jobriath had a difficult relationship with his parents. His memorial plaque simply reads, 'Bruce Wayne Campbell US Army, a singer with an intense desire to perform he deserted to join the cast of 'Hair'. A sad, but perfect example of familial reinvention. This book, based on years of research and interviews with Jobriath's surviving circle of friends, is an attempt to fill out that biography – and to finally give Bruce Wayne Campbell the respect he deserves. Jobriath was years ahead of his time, he was immensely gifted – a unique talent. This is a rock and roll fable like no other.

"The need for recognition and glory must have its roots in human loneliness." John McGahern

The cover photo is by Jay D Reisberg

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