Thelma Houston has been an icon in the LGBTQ community for so long, when she started it was then called the “Gay Community.” Her last concert in Salt Lake City was in 2013 — headlining the Utah Pride Festival. She’s back to show her unconditional love this month.
Houston was the first woman on Motown to win a Grammy as she came to the public eye with the 1977 disco gem “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
In her early days, she worked with Stevie Wonder, Patty Labelle, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, and Lenny Kravitz. She does a mean tribute to her late friend Aretha Frankl. More recently, she worked with dance music producer Bimbo Jones, with a song “Turn the World Around” that sounds as current as anything you would hear in a club today.
She has performed around the world in Pride parades, and for the Pope in Rome.
The career of openly gay singer/songwriter Jimmy Sommerville, as part of The Communards, was launched by doing a cover of “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”
“I’ll tell you a funny story about that with Jimmy Sommerville,” Houston said to Instinct Magazine writer Jeremy Hinks. “We both happened to be working in Europe, and it was my off night, and I went to his show, and his manager knew that I was there, so he gave me a microphone so that when Jimmy started singing “Don’t Leave Me This Way” I started singing it with him walking up to the stage. And he just freaked, it was so much fun, and he had NO idea I was even there, so it was this huge surprise for him. That was so funny, he was so gracious. One other time, we were both doing Pride in New York, and you know the Pride parade in New York is huge. And I was on one float, singing “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, and then later on miles down, he was singing “Don’t Leave Me This Way” too. So that was fun, and it was once again all comes full circle.”
“I’ve been doing work or being supportive of the LGBTQ+ community for many, many years because they have been supportive of me. Because when my song came out, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way,’ it got a lot of support from the community,” Houston told ThePride in Los Angeles.
Houston has warm memories of her first Utah Pride Festival performance.
“I have been involved in Gay Pride parades since the very beginning when it was maybe two or three cars coming down Santa Monica Boulevard. And, I was doing the Pride Festival in Salt Lake City on the grounds of City Hall, and there is more of a family kind of celebration in Utah. I saw how much it has changed for people, and how people have changed their hearts. I think one day soon, it’s just gonna be ‘People.’ That’s my hope.”
Most recently, Houston is featured on Morrissey’s single “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?”, released on streaming platforms from his album I Am Not a Dog on a Chain.
In September of this year, Houston was the headliner of the first Pride Fest of Chicago suburb Naper, Ilinois. She also headlined Aunt Rita’s AIDS Foundation Gala in Phoenix.
Today, Houston has returned to her Motown roots with a new band show called: “Thelma Houston’s Motown Experience,” featuring non-stop classic Motown songs and a tribute to her friend, the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.
This month she returns to Salt Lake City in Loud+Queer: The Ballroom with Thelma Houston at Soundwell SLC, Saturday, October 9 as a benefit for the Utah Pride Center and a kick-off for the National Coming Out Day Road Rally.
The show will also include Marrlo Suzzanne & The Galaxy Band, singer/songwriter Lyle Anthony, Jason CoZmo, guest speaker BYU valedictorian Matt Easton, and host Gia Bianca Stephens.
For more information on the show and for tickets, go to loudandqueer.org/tickets