Story Behind the Song: Joy Oladokun, ‘Let It Be Me’
Since starting to come out to her family and friends in the mid-2010s, Joy Oladokun has renegotiated her relationships with both her family and her faith. She's a first-generation American, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, and her song "Let It Be Me" reflects her complex relationship with her father.
Oladokun has high praise for her dad, and sees plenty of similarities between them — but he also grew up in a country where it is still illegal to be gay, so having a queer daughter has challenged his learned beliefs. The first verse of "Let It Be Me" is stunning in its heartbreaking depiction of Oladokun's childhood worries about her dad learning about her sexuality and what that might mean for their relationship, but the singer stresses that the song is meant to be a celebration of the pair's evolving relationship.
Below, Oladokun shares the story behind "Let It Be Me" in her own words.
I love my dad ... We actually share a lot of personality traits. He's the best person I've seen be a person — like, he is gracious and kind — and he also grew up in a country that told him that it's illegal to be gay. Like, to this day, you get arrested and beat and hurt for being gay.
And so, that song for me wasn't so much about returning to the emotion of my childhood — I knew I was queer when I was, like, eight; I was very young. It wasn't about returning to that kid who was scared and thought that, like, "If my dad ever finds this out about me, he won't be my dad anymore." I think "Let It Be Me" was sort of a celebration of, like, this past weekend, my girlfriend and I were in Arizona with my parents and stayed at their house, you know?
There was a little part of it that was painful, in terms of, there was a moment where I was like, "I don't know if I'm gonna have my dad in my life. I don't know if this can be true about who I am and for this person who love very much." And I think that song is that sort of mixture of joy and grief that it turned out the way that it did, and that we both were willing to be patient and grow and expand.
And we both love Phil Collins so much. It's modeled after all the crazy Genesis stuff I love.
[Now, my relationship with my dad], it's good. It's interesting: Dads are dads. They're complex creatures. My desire to take advance of life to the point where I become better and grow and try to be kinder — that is all him. Like, this weekend, I saw — like, to be very frank — the man who said he probably wouldn't come to my wedding sit in the kitchen and talk to my girlfriend about pocketknives ... and so I think my relationship with him is sort of what it's always been. We're friends; we goof off and talk about music and Kenny Rogers — you know, all the things that we love.
Even though our relationship has been complex at times, he's my hero. I know other Nigerian dads with queer daughters that they do not talk to, and so the fact that he was willing to challenge his lifetime of beliefs, I'm gonna honor that in any type of person I see, and it's super cool that that person is my dad ... I know that he's still actively working on accepting and being at peace with me being gay, and he's doing a really good job, and I'm really proud of him.
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