Cee-Lo: What can we say? Cee-Lo might even out-Liberace, Liberace! Creative uses of tones, textures, themes, cultural references, cross-dressing — there is not a look, it seems, that Cee-Lo has not tested. Yet he always keeps us guessing, and yearning for more. (Stock Photo)
Prince: Prince might define the total image of perfected glam for a man, from the stiletto heels worn effortlessly while grinding out inexplicably difficult guitar riffs, to his bold, male sexuality cooed with gentle delivery on one of his famously suggestive love songs. (Photo: Getty Images)
André 3000: André Benjamin, also known as André 3000, has his fingers in many pies as a rapper, producer, actor and more. Soon to appear in the coming biopic about Jimi Hendrix, another male musical genius with a penchant for panache, Benjamin has also parlayed his well-known sense of dramatic flair into his own clothing line, Benjamin Bixby. (Photo: Getty Images)
James Brown: Not only was James Brown the Godfather the Soul; he might also have been the first African-American legend of the stage to be widely appreciated for his over-the-top outfits. This bright blue head-to-toe formal wear, which Brown sported in 2006, is nothing on the capes, colors, spangles and more he cavorted in for years as the hardest working man in show business. (Photo: Getty Images)
Little Richard: A classic R&B icon, Little Richard has just as much staying power as Liberace did. Another pianist whose career has spanned decades, Little Richard has been glamming it up on stages worldwide, playing his piano, serving sequins, and enthralling crowds since the fifties. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kanye West: Kanye West is something of a goth glam guy of rap. Black kilt? Check. Moping facial expression? Check. Classical themes from art and literature twisted to portray his somewhat troubled inner landscape? Check. While West might not embody the lighter elements of many fashion-forward men with formidable musical ability, he’s right up there with the rest of them: serving hot outfits, dope tracks, and plenty of drama. (Photo: Getty Images)
George Clinton: George Clinton, the force behind the era-defining funk sound of Parliament Funkadelic, has streamlined his look in recent years, but will always be remembered for the rainbow-bright braids and eye-catching accoutrements he wore for decades. (Photo: Getty Images)
Bootsy Collins: Another P-funk great, Bootsy Collins — legendary bassist, songwriter, band leader and more — knows how to razzle dazzle us. From his shiny top hats, to his glittering rings, Collins’ sense of style has remained the same since he first hit the scene: mind-boggling. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sly Stone: Sly Stone became famous for his fly afro and funky-hippie look in the late sixties as the leader of the seminal funk band Sly and the Family Stone way before stars such as Lenny Kravitz and Andre 3000 made flamboyant men’s fashions fabulous. Now back on the scene, Stone has modernized his fashion sense, but remains on the cutting edge of in-your-face men’s style. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage for The Recording Academy)
Sisqo: Whether it’s a bleached blonde caesar cut, or a bejeweled crown as seen here, Sisqo is one well-known R&B performer who does not seem to mind letting out his inner diva. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Black Liberaces,” Bootsy Collins, Prince and Little Richard. (Getty Images)
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Behind the Candelabra, a biopic that some are calling a touching homage to the flamboyant pianist, Liberace, will air on HBO tonight, offering a complex portrait of the iconic figure.
Liberace became famous for dazzling audiences during the ’50s and performed through the ’80s, his opulent image replete with rhinestones, capes, and stages full of sparkling candelabra. At the same time, his hidden homosexuality co-existed with this image of joyful “gayness” that the public was able to enjoy, yet deny. Director Steven Soderbergh delves deeply into the character of Wladziu Liberace — whose name perfectly captures his background of Italian and Polish decent. His larger-than life figure is brought to life by legendary actor Michael Douglas in the title role.
There is considerable buzz about this film. Based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon), his longtime partner, it promises to explore Liberace’s penchant for excess, determination to remain closeted, and the freedom of a world before AIDS, which would eventually take his life.
But these themes are likely only part of the appeal of Behind the Candelabra. The public loves flamboyant men in music, whose sense of drama and outrageous sense of style keeps audiences delighted. Sometimes it’s the fellas with the fiercest frocks that best know how to rock. Just like Liberace, these multi-talented instrumentalists and vocalist pair a love of beauty with the God-given gift to entertain.
In celebration of musical men like these also inspired by the muse of style, we bring you our list of black Liberaces. These male African-American entertainment icons likely have never met a rhinestone they didn’t like.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.