Jackie Shane, soul singer & transgender icon, RIP
Soul singer and transgender icon Jackie Shane has passed away at the age of 78. Her record label, Numero Group, confirmed the news, tweeting "Jackie Shane, May 15, 1940 - February 22, 2019. Memoriam to follow. Rest In Power, Ms. Shane."
Born in Nashville, TN in May of 1940, Jackie moved to Canada and gained a following performing in Toronto's Yonge Street in the 1960s, CBC reports. She disappeared from the public eye in 1971, but a 2010 CBC documentary by Elaine Banks, I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane, led to new interest in the singer. Numero Group released a collection of her work encompassing all six of her 45s and highlights from her 1967 live sessions at the Sapphire Tavern, Any Other Way, in 2017; stream it below. It was nominated for Best Historical Album at the 2019 Grammys.
From an interview with Billboard earlier this year:
“I started dressing [as a female] when I was 5,” Shane said. “And they wondered how I could keep the high heels on with my feet so much smaller than the shoe. I would press forward and would, just like Mae West, throw myself from side to side. What I am simply saying is I could be no one else.”
By the time she was 13, she considered herself a woman in a man’s body and her mother unconditionally supported her.
“Even in school, I never had any problems,” Shane said. “People have accepted me.”
She played drums and became a regular session player for Nashville R&B and gospel record labels and went out on tour with artists like Jackie Wilson. She’s known Little Richard since she was a teenager and later in the ’60s met Jimi Hendrix, who spent time gigging on Nashville’s Jefferson Street.
To this day, Shane playfully scoffs at Little Richard’s antics and knows more than a few wild stories about him. “I grew up with Little Richard. Richard is crazy, don’t even go there,” Shane said with a laugh.
Numero Group released a collective statement about Jackie's death, as well as one from A&R Douglas Mcgowan. Read them below.
Rest in power, Jackie.
Pioneering trans soul singer Jackie Shane has passed away at the age of 78 in her home in Nashville. A cultural icon in her adopted hometown of Toronto, Ms. Shane left the music business suddenly in 1971 and spent decades in semi-seclusion. A career retrospective on Chicago’s Numero Group label in 2017 ultimately led to a Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album. "I do believe that it’s like destiny, like that something that could not be avoided," Jackie told the CBC last month. "I really feel that I have made a place for myself with wonderful people. What I have said, what I have done, they say it makes their lives better." - Numero Group
I’m devastated to report that our friend and hero Jackie Shane passed away peacefully in her sleep earlier this week. Jackie lived in Nashville with her cat, Sweetie. She said many times that she was humbled by all the acclaim lavished on her in the year and a half since our record. To this she’d rarely fail to add that she never asked for any of this, but felt it was fate. Jackie didn’t do what she did for anyone’s else’s approval. She was here to entertain, but also to educate and inspire. She lived entirely on her own terms. She taught me so many things about self-respect and grace under difficult circumstances. She was hilarious and she was wise. She saw dimensions to things others could not. I believe that she was a visionary who will never be forgotten, and will be recognized by more and more people as one of the greatest soul singers of all time. I’ll never know anyone else like Jackie. - Douglas Mcgowan, Numero Group A&R