Jackie Shane, the pioneering transgender soul singer, has died. The Numero Group tweeted about Shane’s passing this morning, writing that she had died earlier today. No cause of death has been revealed as of yet. Shane was 78. Numero Group A&R Douglas Mcgowan has shared the following statement:
“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.
Shane was born in Nashville, and she later said that she started dressing as a girl at the age of five, and she considered herself to be a woman by the time she was 13. During her performing career, when the term “transgender” hadn’t yet come into use, she still presented herself as a woman whenever possible. Shane got her start on Nashville’s R&B scene, playing with people like Joe Tex. Later, she moved to Toronto and began recording there.
In Toronto, Shane released a number of records on small labels, including the local 1963 hit “Any Other Way.” She also toured and performed on TV a few times. But Shane left the music business in 1971, returning to Nashville to care for her ailing mother. She fell out of the public eye completely. A 2010 CBC Radio documentary focused on Shane’s career, and Shane, still living in Nashville, was rediscovered. The Numero Group, the reissue label, reached out to Shane in 2014, and Shane worked with the label to assemble the Grammy-nominated 2017 career-retrospective compilation Any Other Way. Shane started giving interviews again.
Earlier this year, Shane told the Associated Press, “I had been discovered. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt good about it. After such a long time, people still cared. And now those people who are just discovering me, it’s just overwhelming.”