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Lady Gaga celebrates 10 years of 'Born This Way' and the gay Black preacher who inspired it

Carl Bean is a disco singer, AIDS activist and church leader who sang "I Was Born This Way" in 1977.
Lady Gaga is celebrating 10 years of her "Born This Way" album, which was inspired by Carl Bean, a gay Black singer, activist and preacher.
Lady Gaga is celebrating 10 years of her "Born This Way" album, which was inspired by Carl Bean, a gay Black singer, activist and preacher.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images / Amazon
/ Source: TODAY

While celebrating the 10-year anniversary of her second studio album, "Born This Way," Lady Gaga shared more about who inspired the empowering collection of music and its hit title track.

On Sunday, West Hollywood's mayor declared May 23, the date the album was released, "Born This Way Day" and awarded Gaga with a key to the city. The celebration kicked off West Hollywood's Pride festivities, as a colorful street painting of the album's title was unveiled on Robertson Boulevard.

Gaga shared about the celebration on social media, crediting Archbishop Carl Bean for being the person behind the "Born This Way" message.

"Born This Way, my song and album, were inspired by Carl Bean, a gay black religious activist who preached, sung and wrote about being 'Born This Way,'" Gaga wrote alongside photos of herself from Sunday's ceremony. "Notably, his early work was in 1975, 11 years before I was born."

Bean — an openly gay Motown and disco singer who later established the Unity Fellowship Church Movement in Los Angeles, which welcomes and supports gay, lesbian and transgender African Americans — sang the song "I Was Born This Way" in 1977.

The song was quickly embraced as a gay liberation anthem, with lyrics like "Yes, I'm gay/ It ain't a fault, it's a fact/ I was born this way" and "I'm happy/ I'm carefree/ and I'm gay/ I was born this way." The song appeared for 8 weeks on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart and peaked at No. 15 in 1978.

In 2010, Bean published an autobiography titled "I Was Born This Way," which chronicles his journey from musical sensation to outspoken AIDS activist to church leader.

Carl Bean released an autobiography in 2010.
Carl Bean released an autobiography in 2010. Amazon

As a preacher, Bean shares an "all-embracing progressive theology," according to his autobiography's website, with a focus on social activism and love for everyone. The message of his church is one of grace, focusing on how "God is for everyone."

In a video promoting his book, Bean said that he had "always been out of the closet" and never hidden his identity as a gay man.

"I don't fear being honest about who I am," said Bean in the video, which was uploaded to YouTube by Simon & Schuster in 2009. "I expect to be called upon to speak about it, challenge, probably debated, but I know that it would give a lot of people permission to be honest about who they are. God is love, and love is for everyone."

In a second tweet, Gaga thanked Bean for "decades of relentless love, bravery and a reason to sing." She also shared a similar post on Instagram.

"So we can all feel joy, because we deserve joy," the pop star wrote. "Because we deserve the right to inspire tolerance, acceptance and freedom for all."