LGBTQ Heroes: Michael Stipe
As we continue to celebrate some of our queer icons, let’s take a look at the life and career of Michael Stipe.
John Michael Stipe. Known as Michael.
4 January 1960
Born in Georgia, Stipe’s family moved frequently following his father’s work in the military. Stipe graduated from high school in Illinois in 1978.
While studying at the University of Georgia, in 1980, Stipe met Peter Buck. Together, with Bill Berry and Mike Mills, they formed the band R.E.M.
With early singles and EPs receiving positive response from college radio, R.E.M.’s debut album – Murmur – was released in 1983. It was a critical success, and their second album – Reckoning – was released in 1984.
Singles such as The One I Love, and It’s The End Of The World As We Know It really captured the mood of that era. Their style was described as Alternative Rock – heavy guitars complemented by Stipe’s distinctive vocals and obscure lyrics. It was a style and a perspective that influenced bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Pavement, and Radiohead.
It was the early 90s when R.E.M. hit mainstream success – the albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992). Stand-out singles included Losing My Religion, Everybody Hurts, and Nightswimming.
R.E.M. released 15 studio albums, eventually calling it quits in 2011.
Throughout his career, Stipe has been fairly enigmatic about his sexuality. While always embracing ambiguity and fluidity, it was a 2001 interview where Stipe seemed to publicly embrace his identity as a queer man.
Significant relationships have included artist Jeremy Ayers, and author Douglas A. Martin.
Alongside music, photography has been one of Stipe’s major creative passions. He is currently focused on releasing a number of photobooks that showcase his photography throughout the decades, exploring themes of masculinity, and vulnerability as strength.