We Are Gay UK

Was Don Shirley gay, bisexual or straight?

As a new film about the life of Don Shirley documents the life of the extraordinary musician, here’s everything you need to know about his sexuality and marriage.

Was Don Shirley gay,
By Source, Fair use,

Don Shirley is the subject of a brand new biopic film called Green Book and in it, the filmmakers’ touch on Don’s private and romantic life – including a scene where Don embarks on a fling with another man.

Don, who died in 2013, at the age of 86, was notoriously tight-lipped about his romantic life, but we do know that he was married to a woman called Jean C. Hill. However, they divorced. He said in an interview that he chose music and his career over his marriage, explaining, “I didn’t have the constitution to do a husband act as well as a concert pianist act because I was dead set on being what I had been trained all my life to be.”

In the film, it alludes to Don being gay, however, he never actually came out or confirmed any of the rumours. The film was co-written and produced by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Frank Anthony Vallelonga Sr., who is portrayed in the film.

It is worth noting that Don’s family have hit out at the film’s accuracy, calling it a “symphony of lies”. They say they were not consulted by the film makers during the making of the movie. Don’s nephew Edwin expressed that his uncle’s depiction was “very harmful” and “100 per cent wrong.”

Speaking about his brother’s sexuality, Edwin said, “He was as open about his sexuality as he thought it was anybody else’s right to know.” Edwin offered as an example, “If you were to ask him, ‘Dr. Shirley, are you gay?’ He might answer, ‘Why? Are you interested?’ If the answer was, ‘No,’ then he’d say, ‘Well, it’s none of your business,’”

However the truth is that Don may not have publicly acknowledged his sexuality, he may have been bisexual.




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