Matthew, Martyrdom, oh and Lady Gaga

Thanks to Jenny for the find. The above clip is of Lady Gaga doing her version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the 2009 Human Rights Campaign’s National Dinner. The singing begins about 2 minutes in and her slightly revised lyrics are below.

There is appropriate criticism to be made about The Laramie Project‘s martyring of Matthew Shepard. We know from our research that there was a much more complex story to be told about who he was. The play hints at his history, it hints at the history of his murderers, but none are fully fleshed out. Much like the town of Laramie, they are forever signified as a crime. From what we heard from Maude complexity wasn’t really the intention from the start.

And yet, there is something to be said for martyrs. They are powerful. Certainly, Lady Gaga’s choice of lyric alteration takes on even greater significance in the context of the election of Barack Obama who signed into law, 3 weeks after this dinner but 11 years after both their deaths, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Law.

By John Lennon (additional lyrics by Lady Gaga)

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
And only Matthew in the sky*
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday that you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

People of the nation
Are you listening
It isn’t equal if it’s sometimes
I want a real democracy
Imagine all the people
Could love equally

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing in the world
With nothing to hate
And nothing to think
Just people to love
And friends to have drinks

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

It’s also worth noting that at this dinner Dennis and Judy Shepard received the HRC’s inaugural Edward M. Kennedy National Equity Award. There was a tribute video about them as well.

And then they spoke … Jacob encouraged folks to watch Dennis Shepard give his first speech at a previous HRC national dinner. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, here’s another opportunity to see how raw their loss remains. And how much their visibility in relationship to Matthew’s absence means for the LGBT community.

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