Honey Dijon Spins Stonewall Pride Classics

Honey Dijon Spins Stonewall Pride Classics

by Mikelle Street
Jun 14, 2024

Though it was certainly not the first moment of gay resistance, the 1969 Stonewall Uprisings that occurred in New York City’s Greenwich Village took on new meaning when they were commemorated with the first Gay Pride Liberation March a year later. But what was it like to actually be at Stonewall Inn, then known as one of the largest and most popular gay bars in Manhattan, back in those days? When dancing amongst street queens, butch lesbians and trans women, what was the soundtrack? In a new short film from the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center and Amazon Music, in-demand award-winning DJ and producer Honey Dijon imagines just that.

“When I think of Stonewall, I think of liberation, rebellion and owning your own narrative,” Dijon, who co-produced tracks on Beyonce’s Renaissance in addition to releasing her own Black Girl Magic 15-track studio album in 2022, says of the project, unveiled today. “I wanted to contextualize what queer people experienced during the Stonewall Rebellion: the oppression, but also the hard-fought happiness and freedom. These queer people had the music and they had each other. These songs are a way for us to better understand their story.”

The short film is a look behind the process of a jukebox exhibit at Stonewall’s Visitor Center organized by Pride Live, a leading social advocacy and community engagement organization. It features a replica of the original jukebox that was playing the night of the June 28, 1969 police raid, as well as many other nights at the historic venue — the original equipment was destroyed in that seminal event. Two years in the making, the newly debuted replica includes music like Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” which activist Marsha P. Johnson once said she got lost listening to at Stonewall.

“I got lost in the music and I couldn’t get out,” Johnson said in a 1991 interview that appears in the short film “Happy Birthday, Marsha!.” “Still can’t get out of the music.” For Dijon, Gaye’s song alludes to how much of queer life was underground: news traveled and connections were often made through whisper networks, while event producers like drag pageant organizer Flawless Sabrina set up elaborate phone trees to publicize their functions. This was necessary at a time when so much of queer life and existence was legislated against or socially stigmatized.

Other tracks like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” offer slightly more explicit, while still coded, allusions to queer dance floors and sexuality — though the record says “Tutti frutti, oh rootie” today, the original song proclaimed “Tutti frutti, good booty, if it don’t fit, don’t force it, you can grease it, make it easy.” The Isley Brothers’ “It's Your Thing,” pulled from Sony Music's archives in mint-condition for the project, also nods to a spirit of freedom and independence that runs throughout the community.

In the spirit of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, the series also includes songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” the soul song that became an unofficial anthem of the Black Civil Rights movement, providing a necessary counterbalance to the uptempo hits. It is one in a number of soul-stirring selections in the curation.

“I chose things that I thought would reflect the temperature of the time that have withstood the test of time,” Dijon says of the project. “I hope the visitors discover what liberation sounds like. I hope they discover what freedom sounds like. I hope they discover message music, conscious music, protest music.”

“You need to learn from the past: Like I said, you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

Honey Dijon’s curated playlist is available to stream on Amazon Music. The Jukebox exhibit at Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center will open on Friday, June 28 and entry for the public is free of charge.

This article is a sponsored collaboration between Amazon Music and PAPER.