RuPaul is the world's most famous drag queen and rose to fame in the 90’s with his own hit single. For his Guest DJ set, he shares his favorite pop song, the songwriters that make him cry and the dance track that blew his mind when he first heard it. Season 6 of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race is currently airing on LOGO.
For More: http://www.rupaul.com/
1. Olivia Newton John - Carried Away
2. Dionne Warwick - Message to Michael
3. Donna Summer - I Feel Love
4. David Bowie - Sound and Vision
5. Rick Astley - Take Me To Your Heart
Travis Holcombe: Hi I'm Travis Holcombe and I'm here with RuPaul, the world's most famous drag queen and host of the reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race on LOGO.
Ru rose to fame in the 90's with the hit single "Supermodel of the World". We are here today to talk about some of the songs that have inspired him throughout his life as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So, Ru, what did you bring for us?
RuPaul: The first one that came to mind…I knew I had to touch on the Brothers Gibb who, if I start talking about them long enough, I'll actually start crying because they're so brilliant.
This particular song was written for the Barbara Streisand album “Guilty” which the Brothers Gibb produced and wrote and she turned the song down so it got passed on to Olivia Newton John and she put it on her “Physical” album, which was a huge album for Olivia Newton John. It's called "Carried Away" and what makes it brilliant is it changes the time signature in the song and it blows your mind. It is amazing. And the BeeGees didn't produce it, they wrote it, but they stayed pretty true to BeeGees production on this song it's gorgeous.
Song: "Carried Away" by Olivia Newton John
TH: That was Olivia Newton John with "Carried Away", which was written by the BeeGees - or the Brothers Gibb, I guess we should say. Coming up next we got a track by Dionne Warwick, why don't you tell us a little bit about this one.
Ru: Well, if I start talking about Burt Bacharach, it will bring me to tears because I love his music so much.
This song, also written with his partner Hal David, is so beautiful. It was originally titled "Message to Martha" but they changed it to "Message to Michael". Of all the Burt Bacharach, Hal David songs this is my favorite one because it deals with being heartbroken over Hollywood. It's about a guy who goes to Hollywood to make his name for himself - in fact changes his name - and his love back in Kentucky is saying come on back, you know, because it's not happening for him and I don't know why that rings so true for me or touches me so much but I guess it's the heartache of your dreams not coming true.
Song: "Message to Michael" by Dionne Warwick
TH: Did you ever personally in your career have that kind of moment where you know you move somewhere new and maybe like things didn't work out right away and then, you know, you hear from a loved one back home.
Ru: Absolutely, you know, the first 11 years of my career nothing was happening. I had some underground success here and there, but to go above ground - or above 14th Street when I was living in New York - took a little bit more. And during those years, especially as time went on, my family would say ‘Are you sure about this?’. Now this is the same family that my mother said ‘You're gonna be a star’. She saw a physic before I was born and the physic said ‘Yeah, it's a boy and he's gonna be famous.’ But you know there were a lot of lean times, you know and even AFTER (laughs) I got famous there are times when you think ‘oh how much more of this can I take?’
"Message to Michael" by Dionne Warwick
TH: That was Dionne Warwick with her song "Message to Michael", coming up next we have one by Donna Summer produced by the great Giorgio Moroder. Why don't you tell us a little bit about "I Feel Love".
Ru: Well, this song really epitomizes the electronic movement that Giorgio Moroder really pioneered. He had done this sound before "I Feel Love", but "I Feel Love" was the pinnacle of this electronic sound that, by the way has been the precursor to every electronic group since then.
I remember when I first heard it on the radio and my head almost exploded because there was never anything like it before. Oh my goodness it still holds water today and, you know, you listen to Goldfrapp or Daft Punk this is where it all started.
TH: Well, speaking of Donna Summer, was she kind of an inspiration for the RuPaul persona at all. I mean, you could see a lot of similar links between the two characters.
Ru: Absolutely, I love Donna Summer and I love Donna Summer not only because of her voice, but the production of her songs and the sort of the sexual freedom. In fact, my persona is a little bit Mae West, Dolly Parton, Cher, Diana, Bugs Bunny, David Bowie, Diana Ross -- it goes on and on.
Song: "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer
TH: Does dance music hold a special place in your heart?
Ru: I love dance music, even more today than ever before because I find that the noise of this world that we live in, people talking on their phones in the airplane or on the bus, on the train, I take the train, I need to drown them out. Also, you know, dance music I use it for cardio.
I love dance music because it is the beat of the heart and I love keeping my heartbeat up.
TH: That was Donna Summer with "I Feel Love", produced by the great Giorgio Moroder. Coming up we have a selection by David Bowie, "Sound and Vision". Why don't you tell us a little bit about this track?
Ru: Well when I was living in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977 I was 16 years old and I would listen to the “Low” album ad nauseam.
But this album, as dark as it is, Brian Eno producing with Bowie, it's beautiful and so melodramatic even. You know, being 16 years old with 16-year-old angst, it fit right into where I was.
I didn't have a lot of friends so I would come home from school, I was still living down in South Fulton County in Atlanta, Georgia and this was pretty out in the sticks in 1977. You know, as you can probably imagine for someone my age, he's such a pioneer.
In fact, when I was about 14 I used to carry a magic marker with me everywhere I went and I would scribble Bowie on everything that wasn't moving (laughs).
TH: (laughs) Like a David Bowie tagger almost.
Song: "Sound and Vision" by David Bowie
TH: Alright so that was David Bowie with "Sound and Vision". I'm here with RuPaul who is of course the world's most famous drag queen and host of the reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race on LOGO.
We have one more selection, it's by Rick Astley. Why don't you tell us a little bit about this track, “Take Me To Your Heart”.
Ru: Well, I couldn't leave out the Stock Aitken Waterman phenomenon. The hit factory from London who just dominated the charts throughout the 80's -- from the mid-80's into the early 90's, not only in England but around the world.
When people ask me what my favorite pop song is, tricky question I know and you know it's a hard one but this is my favorite pop song ever.
It makes me so happy. It talks about falling in love with your friend and wanting that kind of relationship, right. It also goes into a different key for the verse. I love that trick.
They studied obviously the Motown template for creating a great pop song. I'm sure they studied the Abba template for creating a pop song.
It is perfection and, of course, Rick Astley's voice is so rich and giving. I love this song so much. It's a great cardio song too.
Song: Rick Astley -- “Take Me To Your Heart”
TH: Alright Ru, well thank you so much for joining us in the basement here at KCRW.com.
Ru: The pleasure is all mine, enjoy the music.