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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Song on Gay Man Strikes Chord

"All of you ladies out there, turn up your radio. Girls, I'm about to tell you something you may wanna know ..."


WASHINGTON -- So begins "Bill,'' a passionate, bluesy song that essays an old topic -- a cheating husband -- with a decidedly new twist. In this saga, there's no other woman. Daddy's packing his bags to go shack up with a guy named Bill.


Peggy Scott-Adams's provocative ballad is hitting radio audiences like an emotional bomb. In Washington and other major cities, some listeners have called in sobbing to request "Bill,'' saying it captures their life stories. Others simply can't believe it. Many applaud its candor.


"It is right now by far the No. 1 most-requested song on the radio station,'' says Jay Stevens, operations manager at WPGC-FM here. "It seems to have struck a chord with everybody, young and old -- either they've heard it or want to hear what everyone's talking about.''


"I was ready for Mary, Susan, Helen and Jane. When all the time it was Bill that was sleeping with my man."


The stations picking up "Bill'' cater to primarily black audiences. Record label officials and deejays say the song has spurred unusually strong responses in such markets as Houston, Miami and Chicago. "It's a monumental record -- it's amazing,'' says Elroy Smith, program director for Chicago's WGCI-FM.


Its popularity has prompted an onslaught of calls to record stores -- 50 in one hour at a Tower Records in Washington on Friday -- but "Bill'' isn't yet available as a single, and the album is difficult to find.


Released on a small independent label, Scott-Adams's album has sold about 100,000 copies in recent weeks. "It's caught us by surprise, and we're running to keep up with demand,'' says Warren Hildebrand, president of New Orleans's Mardi Gras Records, which specializes in blues, gospel and zydeco.


The lyrics are hardly subtle -- "My man was just a queen ... that thought he was a king" -- but both the song's writer and its singer say they've heard no protests from homosexuals.


"We used the homosexual theme, but really what the song is about is deception,'' explained Scott-Adams, 48, from her home in Compton, California. "Everyone can relate to that, whether you are gay, straight or whatever.''


Jimmy Lewis, 58, who wrote the song, said from Los Angeles, "Gay people love the record.'' Lewis wanted this made clear: "No, I'm not gay. I'm not bisexual, either. The song positively doesn't have to do with me.''


The subjects of homosexuality and bisexuality are regularly uncloseted in literature and film these days, but "Bill'' is something of a taboo breaker for black pop music. As a blues number, "Bill'' also breaks the mold of what's often called "urban'' radio, where rap and "sex-me-up'' ballads are more the rule. The song rose to No. 68 on Billboard's "Hot R&B Airplay'' chart last week.


Lewis, a songwriter for 40 years, said some of the lyrics in "Bill'' were inspired by a man he saw on "The Oprah Winfrey Show'' talking about why he got married even though he had lifelong "feelings'' that he was homosexual. "He said he didn't want to be gay, and he thought that being married would change him.''


"Bill'' may prove to be a short-lived novelty hit, but it has revived the career of Scott-Adams, who as a teenager toured with Ben E. King and also scored three Top 40 hits in the late 1960s.


"I just can't believe what's happening with this record,'' Scott-Adams said. "I wanted a hit record, but I'm not sure I'm ready for one of this magnitude.''