JACKIE SHANE

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Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1940, Jackie Shane self-identified as a woman trapped in a man’s body at age 13, though she was referred to as man throughout her career. At the age of 19, she moved to Toronto and began performing, dressing in wigs and makeup, sequins and fur, and infusing her sultry songs and passionate speeches with subversive transparency. 

She began as a drum player and gospel singer in Ohio and Tennessee, landing her first radio spot at age 14. She worked as a performer in segregated “soul tents,” which brought her to Canada. Shane studied with Little Richard and performed alongside legends such as Etta James, Jackie Wilson and Jimi Hendrix, but she dropped off the scene in 1971, at the age of 31, to care for her mother, moving back to Tennessee after her death in 1997. Due to her abrupt departure from the music business, rumors circulated that she may have been killed or committed suicide. In 2010, a documentary titled ”I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane” aired, though no one involved in the production knew whether she was alive. It wasn’t until 2017, 46 years after leaving the spotlight at the age of 77, that Jackie Shane agreed to any formal interviews. 

She does not identify herself as transgender or queer, but simply uses “gay” instead. When asked about her thoughts on the progress that has been made for gay and transgender rights in the last half a century, her focus is on a much larger picture. In an interview with the New York Times in 2017, she said “We should have been able to do it from the beginning. We’ve had to fight for everything that should have already been on the table.”

Her album “Any Other Way” is a compilation of her work from the 1960s, and was released in 2017 as a box set, including 12 studio tracks and 13 live recordings. The title track hit Number 2 on the singles chart in Toronto in 1963, which includes the line “Tell her that I’m happy, tell her that I’m gay.”  Her music is described as a blend of funk, soul, R&B, Motown, rock and folk.

“I was just being me. I never tried to explain myself to anyone — they never explained themselves to me.”

“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.”

“If you want me to be phony, you’ve got the wrong person.”

“I have given it a great deal of thought and I think I would like to give the world a little more of Jackie Shane.”

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