Jackie Shane

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - michael ran­cic

Archival record la­bel Numero Group is re­leas­ing the first-ever artistap­proved col­lec­tion of soul singer Jackie Shane’s work.

Named af­ter her most well-known sin­gle, Any Other Way is an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of all six of Shane’s 45s, high­lights from the of­ten boot­legged 1967 live set recorded at Toronto’s famed Sap­phire Tav­ern, as well as three never-be­fore-heard tracks.

Shane last per­formed in Toronto in 1971, and ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease, “this col­lec­tion marks Ms. Shane’s first com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the pub­lic in nearly half a cen­tury.”

Born in Nashville, she made her way to Toronto via Mon­treal in the 1960s, with Frank Mot­ley and the Mot­ley Crew. She built an im­me­di­ate fol­low­ing for her soul­ful voice and bois­ter­ous per­for­mances, which gar­nered her com­par­isons to Lit­tle Richard.

While Richard was al­ways found be­hind a pi­ano, Shane’s sig­na­ture sound is more boldly horn-based, her R&B style more akin to Wil­son Pick­ett or Otis Red­ding. Her band leader, Mot­ley, was known for be­ing able to play two trum­pets at once, but Shane’s pow­er­ful vo­cals had no prob­lem com­pet­ing. Noth­ing could hold her back.

On­stage and off, Shane, a trans­gen­der woman, was al­ways decked out in glam­orous se­quined gowns, high heels and plenty of jew­elry, and did lit­tle to hide what was at the time con­sid­ered to be cross-dress­ing.

As an aside to the au­di­ence dur­ing her live per­for­mance of the song Money in 1963, Shane said, “You know, when I’m walk­ing down Yonge Street, you won’t be­lieve this, but you know some of them funny peo­ple have the nerve to point the fin­ger at me, and grin, and smile and whis­per. But you know that don’t worry Jackie be­cause I know I look good. And ev­ery morn­ing I laugh and grin on my way to the bank, be­cause I got mine.”

Shane would in­deed be laugh­ing her way to the bank. Recorded in 1962, Any Other Way went on to peak at #2 on the CHUM charts and stayed there for 20 weeks.

She con­tin­ued to per­form in Toronto’s club scene for the rest of the decade, but as the city’s boom­ing R&B scene slowed and Yonge Street lost its shim­mer in the 1970s, Shane moved to L.A. and even­tu­ally back to Nashville. She quit record­ing and per­form­ing mu­sic, and dis­ap­peared from the pub­lic eye al­most com­pletely, leav­ing many to won­der about her fate.

Though her work was never for­got­ten, ap­pre­ci­a­tion of her mu­sic and ap­petite for her story waned un­til 2010, when the CBC pro­duced a ra­dio doc­u­men­tary about her life. Rare live footage of Shane was then fea­tured in Bruce McDon­ald’s three­part TV doc­u­men­tary, Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Sto­ries, in 2011.

Noted mu­sic jour­nal­ist Carl Wil­son wrote his own ex­ten­sive take on Shane’s en­dur­ing rel­e­vance for Ha­zlitt in 2013, plac­ing Shane within a larger con­text of the his­tory of queer and Black per­form­ers. The fol­low­ing year, Vide­ofag hosted an ex­hi­bi­tion for an an­i­ma­tion by Sonya Reynolds and Lau­ren Hor­tie called What­ever Hap­pened To Jackie Shane?

De­spite her ab­sence, in­ter­est in Shane’s work seems to be at an all­time high. Her live al­bum was nom­i­nated for the Po­laris Her­itage Prize in both 2015 and 2016. Ear­lier this year, The Globe And Mail pub­lished an ar­ti­cle call­ing Shane a “lost trans­gen­der su­per­star,” and a vol­ume of Toronto queer his­tory, Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, was pub­lished by Coach House and fea­tured an es­say by Steven May­nard. Any Other Way is out Oc­to­ber 20.

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