April 11, 1955|
Rising Sun, Indiana,
|Died||December 27, 1993
Los Angeles, California,
|Cause of death||AIDS related complications|
|Occupation||Musician, author, and AIDS activist|
|Known for||Early AIDS activist|
Michael Callen (April 11, 1955 – December 27, 1993) was a singer, songwriter, composer, author, and AIDS activist. He was a significant architect of the response to the AIDS crisis in the United States.
First diagnosed with "Gay related immune deficiency" (GRID) in 1982, Callen quickly became a leader in the response to the epidemic. He was a founding member of the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement among other organizations, and he testified before the President's Commission on AIDS and both houses of the United States Congress.
Callen died of AIDS-related complications in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 38.
In 1983, Callen co-authored the book How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach, which outlined the tenets of safe sex, developed in collaboration with Richard Berkowitz and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend. In 1990, he wrote Surviving AIDS, which received an Honorable Mention from the American Medical Writers Association.
He was frequently seen on television talking about AIDS. Appearances included Nightline, Good Morning America, 20/20, and The Phil Donahue Show. He wrote for several newspapers and magazines, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek; some of his articles are collected in Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the People with AIDS Coalition in 1988. He also appeared in German filmmaker Rosa Von Praunheim's 1990 film Positiv - Die Antwort schwuler Männer in New York auf AIDS.
Callen openly questioned the HIV theory of AIDS and was especially critical of AZT monotherapy when it was first introduced: "The HIV paradigm has produced nothing of value for my life and I actually believe that treatments based on the arrogant belief that HIV has proven to be the sole and sufficient cause of AIDS has hastened the deaths of many of my friends."
In the early 1980s, Callen was in a gay and lesbian four-piece band called "Lowlife", playing piano and keyboards, singing, yodeling, and twirling a baton.
He was a founding member of the gay male a cappella singing group The Flirtations, with whom he recorded two albums. He also had a solo album, Purple Heart, which a review in The Advocate called "the most remarkable gay independent release of the past decade." During the last year of his life, Callen recorded over 40 songs; Legacy, a 2-CD album of 29 of them, was posthumously released by Significant Other Records in 1996.
In partnership with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Melamet, he wrote his most famous song, "Love Don't Need a Reason", which he sang frequently at gay pride and AIDS-related events around the country.
- 1983: How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach (co-author)
- 1990: Surviving AIDS (author)
- as part of The Flirtations
- The Flirtations (1990)
- Feeding The Flame: Songs By Men to End AIDS (1992)
- Purple Heart
- Legacy – a 2-CD album (posthumously)
- Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, an organization in New York City named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde.
- ACRIA – Started as Community Research Initiative, an organization co founded by Callen and Joseph Sonnabend.
- Dunlap, David W. "Michael Callen, Singer and Expert On Coping With AIDS, Dies at 38", NY Times, December 29, 1993.
- "Immunity Resource Foundation – Meditel Film and Video Archive". Immunity.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
- "Flirting with success", Entertainment Weekly, February 4, 1994
- Official posthumous home page of Michael Callen
- Remarks of Michael Callen to the New York congressional delegation 1983
- Photographs of the real people from Randy Shilts' history of the AIDS crisis "And the Band Played On"