She was dubbed 'the greatest girl singer any band could ever have' by Dolly Parton. Then she seemed to disappear. Singer Maria McKee reveals where she has been.
She was dubbed 'the greatest girl singer any band could ever have' by Dolly Parton. Then she seemed to disappear. Singer Maria McKee reveals where she has been.

What ever happened to Maria McKee?

Maria McKee had a number one single in 1990 with the power ballad "Show Me Heaven" from the Days of Thunder film starring Tom Cruise and Australia's Nicole Kidman.

After being put on the soundtrack she was dubbed "the greatest girl singer any band could ever have" by Dolly Parton. Then she seemed to disappear.

While she enjoyed success for the next decade with songs recorded by Bette Midler, The Dixie Chicks and appeared on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, she never quite reached the heights of Show Me Heaven, which spent four weeks at number one in the UK and was also a huge hit in Australia.

McKee was hiding a secret.

"I've always known I was bi and I've always had tortured friendships with women, and crushes, obsessions," she told News Corp.

"I think there was a part of me that thought, 'Well I'm bi but I'm just going to live straight because if I try having a relationship with a woman I'll just end up becoming a big lesbian (because I think I knew I would prefer women) and then my whole life would have to change'. It was kind of like, maybe I'll deal with it later …"

Maria McKee continued to make music after Show Me Heaven. Picture: Instagram
Maria McKee continued to make music after Show Me Heaven. Picture: Instagram

Almost 30 years later, she did.

"I suppose 'technically' I'm Bi/Queer/Pan but really just enjoying my Dykedom right now," she tweeted.

McKee was just 18 when she fronted one of LA's fastest-rising acts, Lone Justice, an alt-country rockabilly theme band that developed a cult following worldwide.

A musical prodigy, the petite and charismatic McKee played guitar, belted out ballads, and tore up the stage.

Her fans included Dolly Parton, Robbie Robertson, Dwight Yoakam, and U2, who McKee and Lone Justice opened for live more than 50 times.

After two albums on the Geffen label Lone Justice split and McKee went solo.

Her self-titled 1989 album made the Billboard 200 and Show Me Heaven reached #3 on the Australian charts and was covered by Tina Arena, Laura Branigan, and others.

McKee was just 18 when she fronted one of LA’s fastest-rising acts, Lone Justice. Picture: Instagram
McKee was just 18 when she fronted one of LA’s fastest-rising acts, Lone Justice. Picture: Instagram

While McKee was never to find that kind of commercial success again she was prolific, putting out six albums on her own label including the critically acclaimed Life Is Sweet.

She branched out from music to make films with her husband Jim Akin, who she counts as her best friend, and rescue dogs in her native California.

While she'd often "flipped gender" in songs even before she was out and describes her onstage energy as masculine, she couldn't act on her feelings because she was married.

"I was conditioned so heteronormatively, that I assumed I'd only ever be in relationships with men because I needed a man to take care of me. That was what I was taught."

Additionally, she had been "raised in a born-again cult which exerted mind control. I remember telling my mother I think I liked a girl at school and three months later I was abducted into a prayer meeting where they tried to exorcise demons of homosexuality from me."

But about three years ago she had "almost a breakdown of sorts and realised something had to change in a major way."

McKee turned her back on Christianity and studied metaphysics and the occult.

She let her true sexuality manifest itself.

After refusing to sing Show Me Heaven for years, Irish friends asked her to sing it at Dublin Pride.

She has now repurposed the song as a Pride anthem and sings it at queer events.

Then after completing her new album, La Vita Nuova - which means "new life"- she met the woman who would become her first female lover.

The transgender community has supported McKee on her coming out journey and in turn she has started the See Me Safe fund to help trans women finance their gender confirmation, which she stresses is not about cosmetic surgery but "about looking in the mirror and seeing the person that you are, looking back at you."

"And if I get any grief from my older fans about my queerness - if they start to cause a fuss, I just block them. I'm not worried about losing old fans if they're not going to support my lifestyle and the community I'm fighting for."


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