Best Original Song is often one of the most closely-watched and competitive categories at the Academy Award, as it is the one that major musical stars go after in their attempt to dominate the entertainment industry.
Sometimes, the nominees are lesser-known songwriters and producers, while in other years, chart-toppers, pop stars, rockers, and rappers vie for the honor.
Throughout the 80-something years the Best Original Song trophy has been handed out, only a handful of artists who identify as LGBTQ have won the golden statue, and almost all have done so with their own singles. A number of others have been up for the prize, but they have yet to take it home.
While Lady Gaga didn’t end up a second-time champion this year for “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, there are a handful of fellow members of the LGBTQ community who have won the Best Original Song Oscar.
To this day, Elton John remains the only LGBTQ artist to snag Best Original Song at the Oscars more than once.
The piano player won his first trophy back in 1994, and interestingly enough, he actually beat himself for the prize. In fact, John and collaborator and lyricist Tim Rice claimed three of the five spots in the category that year with their work from Disney’s The Lion King.
The duo collected the trophy for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and they were also nominated for the honor for both “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.
John would go on to double his loot in 2019 with the track “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from his own bio pic Rocketman. The second time around, he was joined in the celebration by Bernie Taupin, one of his most celebrated songwriting partners who worked with him on dozens of well-known hits throughout his career.
Unlike her good friend John, Lady Gaga did not win the Best Original Song Oscar on her first attempt.
The pop superstar was nominated in 2015 for the track “Til It Happens to You” from the documentary The Hunting Ground. She worked on the cut with legendary songwriter Diane Warren, who has been nominated for Best Original Song an insane 14 times without ever coming home a winner — though she just recently accepted an honorary trophy.
That year, Gaga lost to another LGBTQ musician — Sam Smith (more on that later) — but she’d have another shot not long afterward. In 2018, Gaga officially became an Oscar winner when her No. 1 single “Shallow” claimed the prize. Joining the chart-topper on stage to accept the Best Original Song Oscar were fellow producers and songwriters Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt.
One of the earliest LGBTQ musicians to win the Best Original Song Oscar, Melissa Etheridge also appears to be the only artist to win the coveted prize for a piece of music created for a documentary.
The guitar player worked entirely on her own to write and produce the track “I Need to Wake Up” film An Inconvenient Truth. That year, she beat songs from the animated film Cars as well as a trio of tunes from the film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls.
Peter Allen is the only artist on this list who did not perform the track that he won the Best Original Song Academy Award for in 1981. The Australian musician worked with fellow powerhouses Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Christopher Cross, who at the time was a major star and who fronted the tune, “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).”
While Allen was involved in the Hot 100 No. 1 smash and collected a trophy for his work, his own musical output wasn’t nearly as successful, at least in the U.S. Interestingly, less than a decade before he became an Oscar winner, Allen had been married to a woman.
The singer-songwriter was betrothed to Liza Minelli for a number of years before becoming more comfortable with his homosexuality and finding love with another man.
Sam Smith’s 2016 Academy award win is known as one of the most notorious due to the speech that it accompanied. The British singer co-wrote and co-produced the James Bond theme “Writing’s on the Wall” from the Daniel Craig film Spectre.
They crafted the soaring tune alongside collaborator Jimmy Napes, with whom they penned a number of their earliest and biggest hits. During their time in front of the microphone, Smith claimed that they had read that they were the first openly gay Oscar winner, and it took only a matter of seconds before social media called them out on that incorrect statement.
Since the flub, Smith has apologized and explained that they were both flustered and confused by what they had read. Smith no longer identifies as a gay man, but rather a nonbinary person, and they continue to succeed in the music world, even landing their first No. 1 in the U.S. just last year.
Songwriters & Producers
While there may only be a handful of LGBTQ artists who have won the Best Original Song Academy Award, the number of talents who worked behind the scenes to craft some incredible pieces of music and who went on to earn an Oscar and who identify as part of the community is much larger than the five names mentioned above.
Beloved figures like Benj Pasek (one win, two nominations), Stephen Sondheim, Howard Ashman (two wins out of seven nominations), and Dean Pitchford (one win out of three nominations) are all worthy of inclusion as well for their catchy and memorable work.
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