Corey Hart doesn't presume to know what it's like to be gay, but watching queer loved ones and musical colleagues face prejudice and intolerance hurt him deeply, and he wanted to express his support in the best way he knew how.
Inspired in particular by three gay people he knew and the struggles he watched them face when he was first starting in the music business, the '80s heartthrob behind hits like "Sunglasses at Night" and "Never Surrender" wrote a song called "The Truth Will Set You Free."
"I started developing the ideas for this when I was 19 or 20 because I was seeing the suffering and the pain that was going on and the discrimination and the hurt it was causing because they couldn't be who they were and love who they wanted to love," Hart recalls.
All of these years later, the singer still gets emotional when he thinks about the situation.
"One was a musical collaborator and another I went on tour with. And one of the people I wrote about was very, very close to me. I love her, so it just..." he trails, wiping tears from his eyes. "By my fourth record, I thought 'I need to write this song.'"
"The Truth Will Set You Free" did appear on his fourth album, 1988's Young Man Running. Despite his passion for the song and its message of emotional support and hope for the queer community, however, Hart never really had a chance to discuss it in a public forum.
"Because it was never a single, no one knew about it," he says.
Not even the three friends who inspired the song knew the true meaning behind it, or how deeply they'd touched the person who wrote it.
"Truth" remained a personal favorite of Hart's, though, and, when a DJ from Kingston, Ontario named 1Love (a.k.a. Paul Todd) emailed him out of the blue with a request to remix the song, the singer leapt at the chance to finally give the song its due.
"No one's ever asked for 'The Truth Will Set You Free' before. So when Paul asked for that song, I was like 'Holy shit! That's the song!' He's just inadvertently pushed the right button."
When Hart couldn't find the original vocal track, the remix evolved into a whole new version of the song, now called "The Truth Will Set U Free," in collaboration with 1Love, which gave the singer a chance to rewrite some lyrics to bring his original message to the forefront. It also gave him the opportunity to add a reference to Matthew Shepard, something the semi-retired star had been wanting to do since the young gay man was brutally murdered in 1998.
"When Matthew Shepard was killed, I wasn't recording any more or writing, so I couldn't add that section to the song. But it's a very hopeful message that the new lyrics have put into the song that I think complete the tapestry."
Revisiting the tune has also given Hart the chance to talk to some of his dear friends about the song, and let them know just how much of an impact they had on him all of those years ago.
"One man, I wanted to make sure he knew. I wrote him an email a month ago and I said 'All of those times we went out on tour, I saw a lot of suffering,' and he was just really, really touched. He had no idea."
Since releasing "The Truth Will Set U Free" as a single, Hart has performed short sets at both Toronto and London's Pride events. Going into the gigs, the singer wasn't even particularly sure that he had much of a gay fan base (although he was voted sexiest man in a poll by a San Francisco alt-weekly in 1987 -- "That was the only time where I thought 'Oh, I guess they like me in San Francisco,'" he says), but the response to his performances and the single itself have been very positive. His long-term fans have been equally supportive so far, although Hart does wonder if some might be put off by his public acknowledgment of Truth's true meaning.
"People really like the song," he says. "I think some of my fans may not like the fact that, all these years thought it was about something else and now I'm telling them the real message of the song, the meaning that I wrote for the song. And look, some people have prejudices and I can't try and dictate how someone is going to feel or not feel. I'm sure I may lose some fans. But, in that case, they weren't really my fans after all."
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly listed the author of the story as Aaron Brophy. Huffington Post Music Canada apologizes for the error and has updated the story to the correct author's name, Sarah Kurchak.