Diana Ross’s smash single “I’m Coming Out” is a Pride month staple. The song has blared from parade floats, topped playlists and taken parties to the next level for decades.
But according to Yahoo Entertainment, the iconic songstress was told it would be the end of her career.
“Diana loved it. We never delved into the meaning or why we wrote it — until she played it for Frankie Crocker, who had now become the No. 1 radio personality in the world,” said Nile Rodgers, who co-wrote the 1980 song with Bernard Edwards.
“She left our studio floating on air, she just loved her album, but when she played it for Frankie, it was not a good experience. He told her it would ruin her career. And she came back to our studio crestfallen and heartbroken,” he continued.
“She comes back and she says, ‘Why are you guys trying to ruin my career?’ And this was out of the clear blue sky — an hour or two before, she had been the happiest woman in the world! But we could see she was brokenhearted.”
The songwriting duo said Ross knew that the album they were working on, Diana, in which the song appears, was deeply personal. And she didn’t want people to assume she was in fact coming out.
“For instance, she had talked about ‘Upside Down’ and how she wanted to turn the world upside down, turn her career upside down; those were her exact words. She had already known that we were writing every song about her life. So she may have misconstrued the idea when Frankie Crocker told her what ‘I’m coming out’ meant — that she thought we were trying to imply that she was gay. Nothing of the sort,” said Rodgers.
In fact, Rodgers was inspired to pen the classic after seeing how many Ross impersonators they were at New York City gay clubs back in the 80s.
“If I write a song for Diana Ross and talk about a disenfranchised part of her fan base and sort of make it for them, this would be an important record,” the songwriter said.
The song ended up making it on the album, despite initial hesitations.
“Diana is definitely not homophobic, that’s for sure,” Rodgers added. “She is one of the coolest people you could ever meet. It was just that she now thought that we were saying that she was coming out.”
“I’m Coming Out” was indeed a hit, reaching No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts.