Diana Ross didn't know 'I'm Coming Out' was a 'gay thing,' according to producer Nile Rodgers
Diana Ross was looking to change her sound in 1980, just as disco music was out. The decision led her to seek out producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who were behind the hits "Good Times" and "Le Freak," to work on what would become her 10th and highest-selling studio album Diana.
“For two days she told us her life story as if we were writing a magazine article,” Rodgers told the NY Post. “And then we went and we wrote the album. Basically, the reason why it’s just [called] Diana is it’s a documentary.”
Rodgers looks back on the Motown release 40 years later, with an anecdote about how the song "I'm Coming Out" was born during his visit to the bathroom of transgender nightclub GG's Barnum Room in New York City where he noticed a bunch of Ross impersonators.
“All of a sudden a lightbulb goes off in my head,” he explained. “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 said Ross "immediately loved the song" and that she really connected to the powerful lyrics about someone breaking out of their shell.
Adding, “But [Ross] 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.”
Ross may have not known then but she fully embraced the song and what it meant to the LGBTQ community, who celebrate her as a gay icon. She's performed the song along with many of her other hits at multiple pride events for her beloved fans.
Diana, released on May 22, 1980, sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Watch the video for "I'm Coming Out" below.