Before They Were famous: Lady Gaga
We needn’t tell you what a unique creature Lady Gaga is, but let’s just say that she puts Marilyn Manson to shame in the weird department.
Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986, she was seen as different early on in her life. She was part of a Catholic family and attended an all-girls Roman Catholic school for the entirety of her education. She was a good student and a keen learner but was a socially awkward girl because of the judgement from her peers.
“I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn’t fit in, and I felt like a freak.”
You could say she was an independent go-getter. She learnt piano by the age of four with no formal lessons; appeared in lead roles of some high school musicals, such as Guys and Dolls and A funny thing happened on the way to the forum; and wrote her own songs as a teenager.
“I still remember the first song I heard. My dad was listening to what I now know was Pink Floyd’s “Money,” and understanding only the sounds of the cash register in the intro, I wrote a song called “Dollar Bills” on my Mickey Mouse staff paper.”
Gaga took those early influences of bands such as Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, and played rock songs in a cover band. Gaga was doing this among other things, such as open mic nights and jamming sessions, and it all seemed to come together. Unlike some musicians, who, in spite of things like poverty and abuse, manage to struggle and squirm their way to the top of the music biz, Gaga’s life revolved around performance and she had her mother for support. Her mum drove her to nightclubs to supervise her underage daughter as she played piano and sang to packed rooms around New York City.
“She’d say to the manager, ‘Listen, I know she’s too young to be in here, and I’m too old to be in here, but she’s incredibly talented and she’s a singer-songwriter and can she sign up on your open-mic list?’ And we just sat and waited round for them to call my name.”
The gods of fate through Gaga another bone while she was singing to herself in a general store and a man overheard her.
“I was singing ‘I Want It That Way’ to myself in a shop down the street from my house, when the store owner, who happened to also be a musician, pulled me aside and slipped a phone number in my hand. He told me his uncle was a highly respected voice teacher who he thought would like to work with me. I called him up and remember his words, “I work with Grammy Award Winner Christina Aguilera, Bono of U2, Mick Jagger and as the list got larger I got more excited.”
So now Gaga had a formal singing coach and the experience of singing in clubs. Gaga then formed her own band with four of her friends, the Stefani Germanotta Band (not exactly a name that’s off the wall or chic typical of the Lady Gaga we know today). They regularly played in The Bitter End bar of Greenwich Village and The Mercury Lounge in the lower east side of Manhattan. They were creating a small buzz, enough to catch the eye of a man called Joe Vulpis, a music producer.
They were making a good living and cruising around as part of the downtown music scene, but it wasn’t until Gaga was contacted by music producer, Rob Fusari, for some immediate vocal work for a night or two, which became every night as they formed a strong working relationship. Gaga was becoming more comfortable to explore her sensual and provocative side. Her and Fusari were exploring different stage names for her when Fusari thought that her vocals were much like Freddie Mercury’s and suggested that she be named after Queen’s hit song, ‘Radio Gaga’. She took the name Lady Gaga and asked that she never be called Stefani again.
So, there you have it. Not really all that rock n’ roll. But, there she has one thing that is a big “fuck you” to capitalist society, and it’s this: underneath all the rouge make up, surreal costumes, whacky wigs, meat dresses, and sharp jewellery, there is a very sweet and honest young woman, who, in spite of harsh criticism, manages to present herself well and hold the hands of her LGBT fans as they stand up for themselves in the tragically homophobic era we live in and that in itself is an admirable task, the artful performances are just the cherries and sprinkles on the cake.
Lady Gaga has saved gay teens from suicide, bullying, and self-shame, and has told those that are born different that it’s okay. We can see in her concerts and fan groups that there are a lot of like-minded people ready to accept each other as a family.
We here at the vulture nest love nothing more than great music but we also love witnessing great humanity in the form of music artistry, and Gaga is truly the queen of those things.