Before Hairspray, the musical…before Hairspray, the movie…Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine, aka John Waters’ original muse, was best known for eating dog poop.
But we’re not here to talk about Divine’s unparralleled (still!) cinematic acheivements (although Female Trouble beats Pink Flamingos any day), but rather Divine’s surprisingly successful music career.
Á‚¿Que?, you say? That’s right. Divine always did a bit of dancing and singing in his movies, including performing the theme song to the aforementioned Female Trouble, but he never cut an album or single until 1979, when he released the single “Born to be Cheap” on the Wax Trax label (yes, that Wax Trax, home to Ministry, Front 242, etc. It was the label’s second ever release). It was another three years until Divine hit the dance charts by teaming up with notoriously sonic-sticky-fingered producer Bobby O to release the single “Native Love”. A year later, Bobby O performed another one of his acts of musical thievery for Divine, completely ripping off New Order’s “Blue Monday” to create “Love Reaction”. New Order didn’t sue, but in fact once covered “Love Reaction” live. Here’s Divine, some cavemen and a monkey in a junkyard – enjoy:
“Love Reaction” solidified Divine as a gay disco mainstay (imagine that), so when it came time to follow up, Divine partnered with a fledgling young production trio known as Stock/Aiken/Waterman. The result was “You Think You’re A Man”, which sounds like it could have been a Bobby O ripoff of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, only that came out a year after Divine’s single with the S/A/W team at the helm. Hmmm…CATFIGHT!
“You Think You’re A Man” was a smash overseas, hitting #16 in the UK charts, bringing Divine ever closer to the mainstream, even performing on Top of the Pops. Divine and S/A/W followed that up with “I’m So Beautiful”, another dance floor stomper that may have been a little too self-knowing and winking to be as successful as “You Think…”. Divine kept recording for a year or so afterwards to diminishing returns before reuniting with John Waters for Hairspray. He died shortly after, the night before he was to start as a regular on Married With Children. We still miss you, Dawn Davenport!
Here’s a bonus – John Candy as Divine from The Dusty Towne Sexy Holiday Special on SCTV:
“Love Reaction”, “You Think You’re A Man” and “I’m So Beautiful” did not chart.
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