Nashville R&B Singer Jackie Shane Dead At 78

Jackie Shane

By Robert K. Oermann

Jackie Shane, whose reissued soul sounds of the 1960s were nominated for a 2018 Grammy Award, passed away last week on Feb. 22 at age 78.

She was a pioneering transgender performer in the music scene of the 1950s and 1960s. She was born male, but identified as female throughout her life.

Shane began her career in Nashville nightspots and was a session drummer for Lillian Offitt on Excello Records. She also drummed with a trio on WVOL. At the New Era club, she backed Ted Jarrett, Big Maybelle, Little Willie John, Gatemouth Brown, Lattimore, Arthur Gunter, Eugene Church and other 1950s R&B stars booked into that Music City venue.

As a vocalist, she became a star in the clubs of Boston, Montreal, Los Angeles and, especially Toronto, her adopted hometown.

Jackie Shane recorded for Sue, Modern, Caravan, Stop, Paragon and other labels in 1960-69. Her singles included “Any Other Way,” “In My Tenement,” “Money,” “I’ve Really Got the Blues,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Stand Up Straight and Tall,” “New Way of Lovin’” and “Cruel, Cruel World.” She also issued a 1967 live LP, recorded in Toronto. She returned to Music City to perform “Walking the Dog” on the Night Train TV series in 1965.

During her career, she shared shows with Etta James, The Impressions, Jackie Wison, Joe Tex, Bobby Hebb, Jimi Hendrix, T-Bone Walker, The Temptations, the O’Jays, and other soul headliners of the era. As studio percussionist in L.A., Shane backed Lowell Fulson and Joe Cocker.

On stage, Jackie Shane wore glamorous makeup and usually dressed in slack suits with frilly formal shirts. Her androgyny prefigured David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Prince and the like.

She vanished from show business in 1971, retiring to Nashville to care for her mother. After living in obscurity for decades, she was rediscovered, and her music was reissued as the two-CD boxed set Any Other Way. The 2017 compilation was nominated for a Best Historical Album Grammy Award.

She was also subject of CBC-TV documentary in Canada and is depicted on a 12-story high mural in Toronto.


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Category: Artist, Featured, Obituary

About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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