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Patrick Haggerty, Trailblazing Gay Country Star, Dies at 78

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(CNN) -- When Patrick Haggerty was gearing up to record his very first country music album, he had a choice to make.He could be the industry-friendly country star and remain in the closet, or he could use music to make a statement about what it was like being a gay man in a deeply discriminatory world.He chose the latter, and 1973's "Lavender Country," Haggerty's first album recorded under the same name, is now widely considered the first country album recorded by an out gay musician.Haggerty, an unflappable activist for LGBTQ and socialist causes and married father of two, for years was persona non grata in the music business. "Lavender Country" was a defiantly queer record, with songs like "Cryin' These C**ksuckin' Tears," during a time when few musicians in any genre were comfortable coming out as gay.So it was surprising, most of all to Haggerty, when he got his chance in 2014 to re-release that historic album and record another one, performing with other LGBTQ country musicians and sharing his story with millions.

He became a country music star after all."The very thing that sank me in the first place is the very thing that jettisoned me into this position," he told CNN earlier this year.Haggerty, the pioneering septuagenarian country crooner, died Monday, several weeks after he'd had a stroke, said Brendan Greaves, a close friend and record label executive.

Haggerty was 78.From obscurity to stardomHaggerty never attempted to tamp down or hide his queerness. He was kicked out of the Peace Corps in the '60s for being gay, he told CNN earlier this year.

He found family in Seattle's LGBTQ community, members of which helped convince Haggerty, a self-proclaimed "stage hog," to record an album.

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