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Billy Porter gives sixties classic a soulful twist for latest single

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Billy Porter speaks truth to power with his cover of the consciousness-raising “For What It’s Worth” (Photo Credit: Santiago Felipe)

Looking to freshen up your continuing stay-at-home time with some new music? The latest single from Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award-winner Billy Porter, released on Friday, might be just what you need to get you out of the quarantine rut and focus your attention on something with more wide-reaching importance than choosing your next Netflix binge.

For What It’s Worth,” a soulful cover of the Stephen Stills-penned folk-rock classic originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield, is the “Kinky Boots” and “Pose” star’s latest effort to continue the legacy of using his art as a means to raise consciousness.

“I decided to record ‘For What It’s Worth’ because I wanted to have my art and my music matter, make a difference,” Porter says. “I’ve always been a political person. I come from the generation where the music reflected what was going on in the world, in the day. The song was written and performed sort of during the Civil Rights Era, the Vietnam War, it was protest music and I wanted to have a hand in bringing that back and speaking truth directly to power.”

The song’s original composer, who after working with Buffalo Springfield went on to become part of the iconic folk-rock group Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), said of the new recording, “I am both proud and delighted that Billy Porter is covering my song… For many years no one tried to ‘make it theirs’ as covers are supposed to do. That an artist of Billy’s caliber has chosen to add his flourish to my song from so many years ago is totally in keeping with what I intended.”

Stills adds, “I have never been asked to ‘update’ ‘For What It’s Worth’ to accommodate Modern Times by anyone, ever. Modern Times seem to circle back and find it yet again an appropriate reflection of uncertainty and suspicion. We always do the same thing. Any form of eccentricity, or failure to conform, or difference in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or political dissent results in your being cast as one of the ‘Other.’ An ‘Outsider.’ A term that leaves you open to being shunned, bullied, demeaned or suspect, ‘Less than’ American. Billy Porter gets all of that and has done a masterful job of capturing the essence of the original Buffalo Springfield rendition, recorded the day after it was written, and made it his own. Pure genius.”

As for why Porter chose this particular tune to cover at this particular time, he says:

“One of the heartening things that I’ve seen during the Coronavirus outbreak is how we’ve all banded together. Everyone doing their part, checking on each other, using technology to connect with one another. I think the messages in ‘For What It’s Worth’ are so relevant now. It’s a song about unifying and coming together to make a change.”

To that end, Porter is making sure to remind his fans that, although they need to stay focused on the present and do their part to help battle COVID-19, they should also be keeping an eye on November, when U.S. citizens will be voting for a new president. 

“While we’re all stuck at home, now is a great time to make sure you’re registered to vote,” he said. “The election is comin,’ y’all. Let’s get ready and stay ready.”

As he uses his musical voice to lean into this all-important election cycle, the outspoken Porter also wants to remind his listeners to embrace their own power to make a difference, too.

“I hope people are inspired to not give up,” he concludes. “To continue to have hope, and to understand that the only way change comes is for the people to come together and demand it.”

Watch the official video below.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

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A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

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Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

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(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

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