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Trans music legend Jackie Shane has died

Jackie Shane: 1940 - 2019
Photo credit:
Numero Group

The reclusive and private soul singer Jackie Shane was not only a music legend but also a transgender pioneer who gained success in the late 60s. 

According to her label Numero Group she passed away on February 22 at her home in Nashville, she was 78 years old. 

Shane is originally from Nashville, but at the age of 20, she moved to the city of Toronto and effectively started that city's R&B sound which much like the Motown movement in the United States was dominant in the late 60s.

Shane lived in Canada as a woman beginning in the 1950s. She became friends with another American there named Frank Motley and both of them joined forces and toured throughout Canada.

Shane was so good that Motown and Atlantic wanted to sign her but that wasn't the path she wanted to take. 

“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.”

In the 70s Shane returned to the American west coat to care for her mother and never really rejoined the music scene.

In the 2000s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a documentary called  “I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane," which explored the musician's career. Her album Any Other Way was reissued by Numero eventually garnering her a 2017 Grammy nod for Best Historical Album

“My whole approach is to get you to go up against wrong,” she once said to The Guardian. “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!”

That attitude has followed her throughout life, as a child, she had to fend off school bullies and inappropriate sexual advances from adults. 

As for strides in the LGBT community, surprisingly she had a rather cynical view on the SCOTUS passage of same-sex marriage. 

"We should have been able to do it from the beginning,” she told the New York Times. “We’ve had to fight for everything that should have already been on the table.”

Numero Group has given 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.”

Douglas Mcgowan, Shane’s A&R representative said:

"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."