Doug Stevens is a country singer who is determined to have a Top 40 hit without singing a “She done me wrong” song. Instead, Stevens sings about being gay and HIV positive.
A far yodel from the Italian arias Stevens used to sing in his former career as an opera singer. When the classically trained singer was diagnosed HIV positive in 1991, the music stopped. Like a Country & Western song scenario, Steven’s lover “done him wrong” and left, and Stevens found it impossible to work on the operatic repertoire that had been his ticket out of Tupelo, Mississippi -- the heart of Ku Klux Klan territory. Not long after, Stevens rediscovered his roots, which he describes as “very hillbilly, very twangy. Classical music was too far from who I really am.” And it ain’t easy: Stevens is not welcome to play on the Nashville Network.
At 39, with his health intact and a regimen of jogging, antiretrovirals and lots of green tea and vitamins, Stevens feels good and is singing about it.
In an upbeat tune with some downbeat lyrics, Stevens sings, “ACT UP! Fight AIDS! Silence equals death. We’ve got to take the power. It won’t be given.” Hardly grist for the Tammy Wynette mill, but sung from Stevens’ heart and inspired by his life, as are all the songs on his autobiographical CDs, When Love Is Right and Out in the Country.
Out is an understatement now that Stevens has switched from Mozart to Memphis. “My whole life is about being who I really am: The country part, the gay part, the HIV part.”