Pioneer soul singer and trans rights activist Jackie Shane has died aged 78.
Born in 1940, Shane grew up in Nashville where she lived as a woman beginning in her teenage years in the 1950s. (I mean, CAN YOU IMAGINE?) She moved to Toronto in her 20s and joined forces with another American transplant, Frank Motley. The two of them began to perform in clubs throughout Canada. She famously turned down label deals with Motown and Atlantic, saying: “They tried to talk to me. But I had been schooled about Berry Gordy taking the entertainers’ money,” she told The Guardian in 2017. “I wasn’t going to get involved in that.”
Touring wore on Shane and she eventually disappeared from public and musical life. Revived interest in her work after the turn of the century resulted in a CBC Radio documentary, “I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane,” and eventually the first sanctioned reissue of her music by Numero, Any Other Way, in 2017. The album was nominated for the Grammy for Best Historical Album this year. “My whole approach is to get you to go up against wrong,” she said to The Guardian that same year. “I don’t bow down. I do not get down on my knees. The lowest I go is the top of my head. This is Jackie!”
Numero Group gave the following statement to Pitchfork:
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.”
Said Jackie Shane’s A&R representative, Douglas Mcgowan:
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.
Watch Jackie go, below.