The song, Dude Looks Like a Lady is a #14 hit by the rock band Aerosmith off their 1987 album Permanent Vacation.
The band knew it would be controversial. And they were right. Eventually, the songwriters had to clear things up.
Everyone loves a good rock and roll drama, and this one is edgy. So shall we get into it?
Let’s jump in!
Who Originally Wrote Dude Looks Like a Lady?
Two band members and a hired hitmaker received credits for writing Dude Looks Like a Lady. Let’s examine some details about them.
He was born Steven Victor Tallarico in New York City in 1948. His family moved to Yonkers, New York, when he was nine.
Expelled from high school for marijuana shortly before graduation, he eventually graduated. He met his future bandmates at summer camp in New Hampshire. At 17, during his time in Greenwich Village, he saw the Rolling Stones. As his favorite music and having many people tell him he looked like Mick Jagger, this was a big inspiration for Steven.
At 22, he formed Aerosmith with friends Hamilton and Perry. He’s known as the Demon of Screamin for his vocal range and high screams. He’s been married twice and has four kids.
Born in September 1950, his father changed their name from Pereira to Perry when they immigrated to the US. He grew up in Hopedale, MA. He attended prep school and boarding schools in Vermont.
Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, he’s a huge fan of early Fleetwood Mac and Jeff Beck. He began playing music in high school and formed the Jam Band with Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton before starting Aerosmith when he was 20.
He’s a lefty but plays guitar right-handed. He’s twice married and has three children. Joe is also the CEO of Rock Your World Hot Sauce.
Born John Charles Barrett in October of 1953, Desmond Child is one of music’s most prolific, accomplished, and award-winning songwriters. He holds credits on 80 top 40 hits spanning over six decades.
He wrote songs for many artists, including Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Meat Loaf, and Kermit the Frog. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, Desmond also received ASCAP’s prestigious Founders Award in 2018. He also serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Latin Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
In addition, he’s a producer of film and television, a recording artist, a performer, and a motivational speaker.
Who Writes Most of Aerosmith’s Songs?
They had three phases of writing styles throughout the years.
A songwriting team from the beginning, Tyler and Perry wrote their songs with Steven on drums and Joe on guitar. According to Joe, Steven is an imaginative drummer, which lends itself to his percussive singing style. So first, they would write the music, and then Tyler would add the lyrics.
After Perry left the band, their songs progressed into more radio-friendly hits. In their later years, they worked with songwriters outside of the band.
So Who Was Dude Looks Like a Lady About?
Originally called Cruising for a Lady and later changed, it’s about a man who is mistaken for a woman.
Sitting at a bar, Steven Tyler came up with the idea when he met the members of Motley Crue and mistook their singer, Vince Neil, for a lady. His bandmates made fun of him, saying Dude looks like a lady because the members of the Crue called everyone Dude. Joe Perry wrote the riff and the chorus.
Desmond Child and Aerosmith met when the band’s producer recommended him. It was the first time they had collaborated with an outside songwriter.
Upon hearing the title, Desmond hated it and chastised them. He thought they used cruising to avoid offending the gay community. But as a gay man, he convinced the band it wouldn’t offend.
Who Is Vince Neil?
Born Vincent Neil Wharton in February of 1961 in Hollywood, CA, Vince is the lead singer and sometimes rhythm guitar player for the heavy metal band Motley Crue.
He’s of Mexican and Native American descent. In the 1960s, Vince’s family bounced around Southern California before settling in Glendora. Out of high school, he formed the band Rock Candy before joining Motley Crue, selling over 100 million albums worldwide.
Is Dude Looks Like a Lady Offensive or a Hit Anthem?
Although the band had concerns about Dude Looks Like a Lady being transphobic, the controversy over the song didn’t start until 2013.
That year, Fox News used the piece to introduce Chelsea Manning. Then in 2017, Caitlin Jenner used it as her theme song and received backlash from the LGBT community.
From the beginning, though, Desmond Child didn’t find it offensive and went on to say that it’s inclusive, noting the line of the song, “never judge a book by its cover, or who you’re going to love by your lover.”
We Think Dude Looks Like a Lady is All Right
As the song goes, “Baby, maybe you’re wrong, But you know it’s all right!”
This song demonstrates how one of the best songwriting duos in Rock and Roll moved past their reservations and upped their songwriting game by incorporating an award-winning songwriter.
What do you think about Dude Looks Like a Lady? Let us know in the comments!
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[…] From the Muse: Dude Looks Like a Lady is another popular Steven Tyler hit. Uncover the story behind the lyrics and find out who Aerosmith wrote the song about. […]