Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

Brandi Carlile Pens Eulogy for Legendary Queer Country DJ Rita Houston

On her Facebook page, Brandi Carlile published a fond remembrance of her friend Rita Houston, longtime program director and DJ at Fordham University’s legendary WFUV, who succumbed to cancer on Tuesday at age 59.

Houston, proudly out and married to WFUV new media director Laura Fedele, was widely known as a tastemaker. She was instrumental in breaking Joan Osborne, Adele, and Carlile. Here’s what Brandi had to say:

“Is that your plus one?” Rita Houston said to 22 year old me as a picture of my girlfriend accidentally popped up on my cell phone screen while I was scrolling through my horse pictures for her…

“It’s ok to talk about it,” I remember her telling me. She could immediately tell that I was uneasy with people in the music business knowing I was gay…

“I don’t know what it’s like where you’re from but this is NYC…we’re going lesbian bar karaoke singing right now. Do a shot of tequila and get your coat.”

That’s how my friendship with Rita started. After that there were years of all night burn downs in towns like Austin, Boulder, NYC, LA and many more. Rita’s wife Laura and her best friend Deb were always right there with us…always up for the latest adventure. We had vacations together, went to Indigo Girls concerts and even tried hotboxing my tour bus once or twice!

Rita was a BLAST and a soulful stabilizing force for so many of us. I’ll never forget the times we spent together. She was absolutely packed FULL of life…up for anything, and the amount of charisma she possessed was just plain criminal. Don’t even get me started on that hair.

Rita was the very first person to play my music on the radio… The only reason that matters is that it’s so important for a young person to know that someone they look up to believes in them. For me, she was that person.

You can see Rita’s beautiful face in my music video for “The Joke.” And now you will understand why.

She kicked cancer’s ass for over five years. She left the world better than she found it. She left me better than she found me.

We’ll miss you, lovely Rita.

Thank you for the gift of your life. Laura and Deb, I’m thinking of you girls. I think a lesbian karaoke night is in order.


Carlile included three production stills featuring Houston, from the shoot for Carlile’s video for “The Joke”.

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