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Singer And LGBT Icon, Archbishop Carl Bean, Dies At 77

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

He was an archbishop, an HIV/AIDS activist and a singer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL WE NEED IS LOVE")

CARL BEAN AND UNIVERSAL LOVE: (Singing) All we need is love.

MARTIN: Archbishop Carl Bean died on Tuesday at 77 years old.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Bean founded the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, and he created the Minority AIDS Project in Los Angeles.

ZACHARY JONES: He was one of the first voices during the HIV/AIDS crisis, particularly in the African American community, when no one else was really speaking on behalf of those people who were losing their lives back in the early '80s.

MARTIN: That's retired Bishop Zachary Jones. They became friends, united through activism, ministry and being gay Black men.

JONES: It was archbishop's voice who invited other people of faith and all walks of life to rekindle their spiritual lives and their faith after many people had been turned down and rejected by mainstream religion.

KING: In the 1970s, Motown producers approached Bean to sing a song that they'd been working on. It was called "I Was Born This Way."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WAS BORN THIS WAY")

CARL BEAN: (Singing) I'm happy, I'm carefree, and I'm gay. I was born this way.

KING: That song met with opposition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BEAN: There were many radio stations that wouldn't even play it.

KING: Bean talked to NPR in 2019 and said he had no hesitations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BEAN: Human rights and civil rights and social justice was the heartbeat of who I was, so I couldn't think about money and being famous over the opportunity to speak out about wrongs in society.

MARTIN: Decades later, his song was the muse for Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" single. Jones says Archbishop Bean's legacy will continue through work and activism.

JONES: That the fight was not over. LGBTQIA people still have a long way to go, particularly in the Black community.

MARTIN: As he sang in the song, Archbishop Bean's wish was to help everyone feel as happy and carefree as he did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WAS BORN THIS WAY")

BEAN: (Singing) I'm happy. I'm carefree. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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