Producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were pivotal in helping catapult Diana Ross’ music career in the ’80s. In a recent interview with the New York Post, Rodgers tells stories about their time working together. He also reveals that Diana Ross had no idea that her hit “I’m Coming Out” – which is arguably one of the biggest gay anthems of all time – was about being gay.
Rodgers talks about making Ross’ Diana album, saying that it got the title because it was more of a documentary than an album. He then goes on to talk about the single “I’m Coming Out.” He explains that he was inspired to create the song after seeing a bunch of Diana Ross impersonators at a predominantly transgender club in Manhattan. “All of a sudden, a lightbulb goes off in my head. 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.”
He adds that Ross loved the song, but didn’t quite understand the context. “She didn’t understand that that was a gay thing, that that was a person saying, ‘I’m coming out of the closet.’ She didn’t even get that.”
After she understood the song’s meaning, Diana was unsure about the tune because it was implying that she was gay. After some persuasiveness, he was able to convince her to stick with the hit. “I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen.’ And I even wrote a [horn] fanfare. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief.'”