Elusive Trans R&B/Soul Singer Jackie Shane Returns


In the 1960s, soul singer Ms. Jackie Shane, with a smoky angelic voice, was dazzling audiences throughout Canada where she had been holding court since 1959, and had attained a No. 2 position in 1963 on Toronto music charts with the single “Any Other Way,” just below the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” Wearing glamorous costumes, elegant wigs and makeup, Ms. Shane was a commanding stage presence, poised for stardom, and blossomed under the tutelage of Little Richard and the Upsetters. Though she never recorded a studio album, Ms. Shane performed alongside Etta James, Jackie Wilson and the Impressions. Then in 1971, Jackie Shane left her career, her whereabouts a mystery for 46 years.

Jackie Shane was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1940, a tough time and region to be black and transgender. At age 13, she identified “as a woman in a man’s body,” but described herself at the time as gay and was “referred to publicly as a man” during her career.

She abandoned her music career in 1971 in order to care for her widowed mother Jessie Shane in Los Angeles. Her mother died in 1997. Ms. Shane moved back to Nashville about nine years ago to live a very reclusive existence.

Nashville is where Douglas Mcgowan tracked her down, first with phone calls, and then showing up to her door with a contract agreement for his archival record label Numero Group to reissue Ms. Shane’s catalog. It took three years to gain her trust, and even a rebuff when first standing on her front porch (“I’m not ready,” said Ms. Shane through the unopened door). Luckily for Mr. Mcgowan and the world, Ms. Shane eventually signed the contract.

“Any Other Way” is the two-disc boxed set anthology of Ms. Jackie Shane’s music to be released October 20. Named after her 1963 hit single, the reissue will come with extensive liner notes. The collection includes a live recording of a monologue, in which Ms. Shane professes, “You know, you’re supposed to live. As long as you don’t force your will and your way on others, forget ’em, baby, you don’t need ’em.”

With the upcoming release, Ms. Shane, now 77, is speaking frankly to the press on her fascinating but often difficult history, and on topics such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to uphold gay marriage.

“We should have been able to do it from the beginning,” Ms. Shane said. “We’ve had to fight for everything that should have already been on the table.”

Numero Group’s Mr. Mcgowan is hopeful the release of “Any Other Way” will enable Ms. Shane to return to the stage and public life. Ms. Shane has not announced any such plans, but hinted slightly when pondering the current music trends by saying, “I’m going to have to school these people again.”

Please do, Ms. Shane.


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