With Nashville’s iconic music industry still largely devoid of LGBTQ+ household names, it is easy to spend a lifetime listening to country western music without realising gay women are behind many words and melodies of crowd-pleasing hits. Performer documentaries are a dime a dozen: those revealing the unseen, often-sung voices offer a more special, more circumspect angle. Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Music is largely the latter with clips of the former, telling the story of generations of women forced behind the scenes and off the air. 

As these talented singers, songwriters, and musicians wrote for the likes of Tim McGraw, Willy Nelson, Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, and Reba McEntire, they stayed out of the spotlight themselves to avoid a life in the closet. The infuriating case of Chely Wright – successful country star turned pariah when she came out as gay in the 2000s – reinforces the reality of those fears. Whether or not the story would be different in the 2020s is beside the point; the poignancy of this belated spotlight and the rage that a focused documentary film was required to provide such a platform are engrossing.

Every archival piece chosen tells a story; the introduction of a young Linda Ronstadt on The Johnny Cash Show not only leads into her work with one of the documentary’s key subjects (Dianne Davidson, a longtime backup singer for Ronstadt who never went solo due to her sexuality), but also to how women were presented and had to present themselves in a male-dominated industry. The double standards and abuses they hide sting.

With artists and entertainers still having to pick and choose their public personas, Invisible: Gay Women in Southern Music is an urgent, timely exploration as much as it is a historical celebration. The documentary is a must-see for music lovers. 



DIRECTOR: T.J. Parsell

WRITER: T.J. Parsell

SYNOPSIS: Gay women are behind some of the most iconic songs of Nashville’s Country Western and Southern Music; this documentary finally puts their songwriting – and often neglected performance – talents front and centre.