The Indigo Girls Were Seen As 'Political Lesbians.' Now, It's Their Legacy.

Grammy-winning duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers recall their decadeslong fight against sexism and homophobia in a new documentary.
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The Indigo Girls’ cultural renaissance is set to continue with the release of a new documentary about the folk-rock duo.

“Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All,” which premiered to great acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last year, will hit theaters across the U.S. for one night only on April 10. Directed by Alexandria Bombach, the film examines the “misogyny, homophobia, and a harsh cultural climate” that the Indigo Girls have endured since the released of their debut album, “Strange Fire,” 37 years ago.

“From our earliest days at Little Five Points Community Pub in Atlanta, the ideal of ‘community’ has informed our music and activism,” Amy Ray, one-half of the duo, said in an emailed statement. “We feel blessed to have worked with such a compelling crew of folks, who created a document that reflects the vital part our audience, activists, friends, family, and mentors play in our ongoing creative lives.”

Watch a trailer for “Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All” below:

Ray and bandmate Emily Saliers both grew up in Georgia and began performing together as the Indigo Girls in the mid-1980s. The pair released “Strange Fire” independently in 1987, about a year before they signed with Epic Records.

Their self-titled second album was unveiled in 1989 and featured their signature hit, “Closer to Fine.” The following year, the record won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.

Buoyed by the success of “Closer to Fine,” the Indigo Girls would go on to record 13 additional studio albums. Their most recent record, “Look Long,” was released in 2020.

Despite their indelible musicianship, Ray and Saliers never quite achieved the superstar status of other female singer-songwriters of the era, such as Tori Amos and Suzanne Vega. As “It’s Only Life After All” points out, the duo’s outspokenness about their queer identities was viewed by record executives as an obstacle.

From left: Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.
From left: Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.
Jeremy Cowart

“Indigo Girls [have] never been featured in a mainstream rock press magazine. And I’m talking about Spin, Rolling Stone,” Ray explains in a trailer, released Tuesday. “I’m told the reason for our lack of press is our lack of radio play. But I know that it’s the fact that we’re political lesbians.”

Still, “It’s Only Life After All” seems impeccably timed, as the Indigo Girls have enjoyed an unexpected resurgence over the past year. “Closer to Fine” was featured throughout last summer’s blockbuster “Barbie,” with Brandi Carlile and her wife unveiling an acoustic cover of the song for the movie’s soundtrack.

Glitter & Doom,” a movie musical featuring 25 Indigo Girls songs, arrived in theaters last week. As for Ray and Saliers themselves, they show no signs of slowing down, and are set to join Melissa Etheridge on a co-headlining tour across the U.S. this summer.

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