Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25: country music artist and gay rights activist Chely Wright is 43-years-old today.

Richell Rene "Chely" Wright was born October 25, 1970 in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in a musical family in Wellsville, Kansas. As a toddler, Wright would sit in a great-grandmother's lap and rest her own hands on the great-grandmother's hands as the woman played piano.

By age 11, Chely was a professional pianist and singer, and from seventh to twelfth grades, the local branch of the American Legion appointed her the bugler to play taps at the funerals of veterans.

In third grade, Wright realized she was in love with her schoolteacher. Although at that young age she lacked sexual awareness, this crush made her realize that she had an attraction to women that she knew to be culturally taboo, immoral, and would kill her career as a musician. She resolved to keep her sexual orientation a secret, and not pursue romantic love with women.

The summer before her senior year of high school, she worked as a performing musician at the Ozark Jubilee, a long running country music show in Branson, Missouri. In 1989, taking the advice of her grandfather, she auditioned and landed a position in a musical production at Opryland USA, a now defunct theme park in Nashville, Tennessee. She stayed in Nashville until 2008. For the next several years, she interned and attended writers' nights, while honing her singing and songwriting.

She attained her first recording contract in 1993, when Harold Shedd signed her to Mercury/Polygram, and her first album was released in 1994 on the Polydor label. On the strength of her debut album in 1994, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) named her Top New Female Vocalist in 1995.

Wright's first Top 40 country hit came in 1997 with "Shut Up and Drive." Two years later, her fourth album yielded her first number one single, the title track, "Single White Female." Overall, Wright has charted more than fifteen singles on the country charts. As of May 2010, Wright's previous eight albums had sold over 1,000,000 copies in the United States.

Also in May 2010, Wright became the first major country music performer to publicly come out as gay when she released  both her memoir of being a closeted lesbian, Like Me, and her first album of new songs since 2005, Lifted Off the Ground. 

In television appearances she cited among her reasons for publicizing her homosexuality a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward gays, particularly gay teenagers, and the damage to her life caused by "lying and hiding."
As a songwriter Chely has written songs that have been recorded by Brad Paisley, Richard Marx, Indigo Girls, Mindy Smith and Clay Walker, among them Walker's top ten hit, "I Can't Sleep" that won her a BMI award.

The country singer and her wife, music executive Lauren Blitzer Wright, welcomed identical twin sons on Saturday, May 18, 2013.


For more about Chely, visit her Website at –


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