Billing themselves as the "world's only, openly gay, politically correct, doo-wop singing a cappella quintet," The Flirtations entertained and educated audiences around the world from 1987 until 1997. During the course of their career, they weathered the devastating loss of two founding members to AIDS, changes in personnel, life on the road, and the stresses and joys of being part of a diverse musical family of choice. This talk locates The Flirts' unique blend of political activism, musical finesse, and fabulousness within the broader broad context of unaccompanied singing traditions in the US. Using oral history interviews with surviving members of the group, previously unavailable archival resources, and close readings of recorded performances, I then explore the specific ways in which the group queered a quintessentially American musical practice.
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