Beyoncé’s heartfelt tribute to her late gay Uncle Johnny at the Grammys is everything
Beyoncé gave a heartfelt tribute to the queer community and her Uncle Johnny as she accepted a history-making Grammy award for best dance/ electronic album at the 2023 Grammys.
Beyoncé claimed four Grammy awards at the 65th iteration of the ceremony, all for various aspects of her groundbreaking 2022 tribute to queer culture, Renaissance, making her the most decorated Grammy recipient of all time.
The record was widely commended for drawing upon the work of queer Black artists from across time and genres, such as the black transgender DJ and producer Honey Dijon and ‘90s drag artist Moi Renee.
The album also made many references to the Knowles’ family friend, ‘Uncle’ Johnny.
Taking to the stage to accept her award, Beyoncé gave a tearful acceptance speech dedicating the award to Johnny, as well as the wider queer community from which so much of Renaissance took inspiration.
“I’m trying not to be too emotional. I’m trying to just receive this night,” the superstar said to rapturous applause from the crowd.
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“I’d like to thank my Uncle Johnny, who’s not here. But he’s here in spirit.”
After thanking her immediate family, including her “beautiful husband” and “beautiful three children”, Beyoncé went on to explicitly credit the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’d like to thank the queer community for your love and for inventing the genre,” she added.
Who was Beyoncé’s Uncle Johnny?
A close friend of Tina Knowles-Lawson, Uncle Johnny was not a biological relation to Beyoncé, but a rather a close family friend.
Including lyrics such as: “Uncle Johnny made my dress,” the friend of the Knowles dynasty can be felt throughout Renaissance, not least because he is credited as the person that introduced Beyoncé to the ballroom/ house genre.
“A big thank you to my Uncle Johnny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” wrote Beyoncé in her album dedication.
Following Renaissance‘s release, Tina Knowles-Lawson also penned a dedication to the late icon in an Instagram post.
“Johnny loved house music!,” she wrote. “And introduced my kids to it early on.”
While accepting a recent Vanguard Award from GLAAD, Beyoncé and Jay-Z also shared that Uncle Johnny made Beyoncé’s prom dress, contributed behind the scenes to Destiny’s Child, and was a major influence on her and sister Solange. Tragically, he died following a struggle with HIV.
She called his loss was “one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived.”
How queer is Beyoncé’s Renaissance?
Queen Bey’s nod to the artistry of the queer community also echoes the album dedication on Renaissance, which reads:
“Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognised for far too long.”
As well as features from Honey Dijon, Moi Renee, Big Freedia and more, Renaissance also spells out the colours of Daniel Quazar’s Progress Pride Flag in “Cozy”.
Thus far, the visual accompaniments for the album include references to legendary queer icons such as Pepper LaBejia and Octavia St. Laurent, both stars of the film Paris Is Burning.
The Grammy marks Beyoncé’s 32nd of the awards – the most that any individual artist has ever won.
Aside from best dance/electronic album, the icon also took home the Grammy for best R&B song (“Cuff It”), best dance/electronic recording (“Break My Soul”), and best traditional R&B performance (“Plastic Off The Sofa”).
Queer fans have been overjoyed at her shoutout to the queer community.
“Queer ppl never get credit for our contributions so seeing THE beyoncé give us our flowers on the grammy stage brought me to tears,” one wrote.
Beyoncé lost out on Album of the Year to Harry Styles’s Harry’s House.
She has also recently announced a worldwide tour for Renaissance.
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