Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 24, No. 48, Ed. 1 Friday, April 18, 2008 Page: 34 of 72
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North Texas' beloved punk-folk rebel disputes her former lesbian status, comes out as an evangelical gospel singer
and sides with the Bible about the immorality of same-sex love. But hey, she's a sinner too
By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor
Michelle Shocked already knows how
horrible the headline for this article
sounds. And she's concerned about
how it will impact her LGBT fans in Dallas —
Two weeks ago, Shocked called Dallas Voice,
not realizing it was a gay publication.
"I've been avoiding interviews with gay
press," she says from her home in Los Angeles.
"I'm going to kill my publicist."
For those of you who have lost track of
Michelle Shocked, she became an international
sensation in 1986, when her first album, "The
Texas Campfire Tapes" — a field recording of
Shocked as the American vagabond — became
a hit in England.
In 1988, she scored big with her first studio
disc, "Short Sharp Shocked," which contained
"Anchorage," her biggest hit. At the 1990 MTV
Video Music Awards, Shocked's video for "On
the Greener Side" was up for Best Female Video
against Madonna's "Vogue" and Sinead
O'Connor, who took home the statue for
"Nothing Compares 2 U."
It's easy to place Shocked in the same catego-
ry with Sinead — because Shocked's career
has never solely been about music.
From racism to politics, Shocked
has always been a fiercely out-
spoken activist. And in the
mid-'90s, Shocked bucked the
system: Claiming that her
record contract was breached,
Shocked filed a ft million suit
citing the 13th Amendment,
which forbids slavery (PolyGram
settled before the case went to trial.)
Without the Big Music machine
behind hei; Shocked's career has oftentimes fall-
en into the What Happened To Her file? But she
never disappeared: Shocked started her own
On tour to promote her
Michelle Shocked performs
at House of Blues Cambridge
label, Mighty Sound. In 2005, she released three
albums simultaneously. And over the years,
she's explored a wide range of sounds: reggae,
Disney covers, big-band swing — and now
About 15 years ago, Shocked was
lured by the incredible musician-
ship of the West Angeles Church
of God in Christ choir, located
in South Central Los Angeles.
Her plan was to explore the
roots of the gospel tradition at
a predominately African-
"Not to become a born-
again Christian," she says. "But
as they say, I went to church one
Sunday too often."
Bom in Dallas at Baylor University Medical
Center, Shocked was raised as an "extreme
Mormon." Her dad, bluegrass musician
"Dollar" Bill Johnston, still lives in Dallas and
plays in a band called Dollars Taxes. While
Shocked has fond girlhood memories of White
Rock Lake and the Lower Greenville area, "I
turned my back on Dallas," she says. "I had
always associated Texas with populist, demo-
cratic, L.B.J, kind of values. But during the '80s
and '90s, there was that ascendancy of those
right wing Republicans — Bush, Cheney,
Halliburton kind of values. And I just washed
my hands of it, sort of like Pontius Pilate."
Her extreme liberalism might be why
Shocked was inappropriately identified as les-
bian. During our interview, Shocked's passion-
ate opinions exploded into near-rage countless
times. When questions about her sexuality sur-
faced, she demanded that I find a copy of the
early-'90s article that appeared in Chicago's
Outlines magazine. The Outlines piece has
repeatedly been referenced as Shocked's
See SHOCKED on Page 42
34 I dallasvoice.com I 04.18.08
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 24, No. 48, Ed. 1 Friday, April 18, 2008, newspaper, April 18, 2008; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239008/m1/34/?q=sam%20staggs%20kusner: accessed September 20, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.