John Royce Mathis was highly popular back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. He's the 3rd biggest selling artist of the 20th century after Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He's also a gay man that hid his sexuality for years.
Many of Mathis’ albums achieved gold or platinum status. Although he is frequently recognized as a romantic singer, he has recorded Traditional Pop, Brazilian, Spanish, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Soft Rock, Show Tunes, Tin Pan Alley, Blues, Country and even some Disco songs.
In 1982, he told Us Magazine "Homosexuality is a way of life that I've grown accustomed to." However, he chose not to add further comments about the statement, and the magazine ended up retracting his words completely. Years later, he finally came clean about his sexual orientation.
On an interview with Express in 2014, Mathis admitted he became the target of homophobic death threats when he first announced he was gay, and that drove him to stop promoting his concerts. He said:
"A few people in the Southern states didn't like it. I was in no real danger but when you're young it's difficult to get over. It doesn't bother me at all now and it's not even a big deal any more which is wonderful but I learned to isolate myself from negative things."
Last year, talking to Nancy Giles on CBS Sunday Morning, the now 82-year-old singer revealed that he’s a kid at heart and didn’t really care what people thought or said when it came to expressing himself. "I come from San Francisco. It's not unusual to be gay in San Francisco."
His life has been extraordinary because contrary to the reactions to homosexuality at the time, his dad reportedly had no issues with it. According to him, everyone else was concerned about the negative implications of revealing his sexual preference and the effect on his career, but his dad was not bothered.
"I was comfortable with my sexuality,” he said. “I had a talk with my dad when I was about 16, 17. I said, ‘People are talking about me that I’m gay.’ He said, ‘Son, I’m your dad. I know these things."
Mathis said he was quite confident as he knew he could sing, and also he knew that there were a lot of other people in the same situation. He also said, when asked about the way things are regarding accepting people as they are - as opposed to in 1982 - that it is much better now, thanks to young people who embrace new things.
Watch Mathis' complete statement about it below:
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