Photo: Jeff Goode/Toronto Star/Getty Images
Jackie Shane, Groundbreaking Trans Soul Singer, Finally Shares Her Story & Music
In the 1960s, Jackie Shane was a well-loved Toronto soul performer who broke barriers as a black transgender woman. But the wider world remained unaware of her story—until recently, that is.
Any Other Way, Shane’s first full-length album released in Oct. 2017, is a two-disc collection of her previously unreleased hits and is currently nominated for Best Historical Album at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.
As reported by the The Associated Press, in 2010 a Canadian-produced audio documentary focusing on Shane's story was shared with the world and began to pique interest in the little-known performer. In 2014, archival label Numero Records reached out to Shane and eventually convinced her to work with them to release the album, which includes both live and studio recordings. (Prior to its release, Shane had put out a live album, along with a handful of singles, released in the '60s when she was actively performing.)
One of the singles, "Any Other Way," which was not available digitally before 2017 and now serves as the title track of her album, was originally a midcentury regional hit in Toronto and Boston.
Shane was born in Nashville, Tenn., where she got her start in music, but moved north when Jim Crow laws were implemented in the South. Eventually she joined Toronto’s burgeoning R&B scene, where she thrived there in the '60s. In 1971 she returned home to be closer to her mother and family.
After the release of her documentary, her story circulated in the news and social media, with modern LGBTQ+ icons like RuPaul and Laverne Cox sharing it.
"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," Shane told AP.
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) October 20, 2017
"I would travel with about 20 trunks. Show business is glamour. When you walk out there, people should say, 'Whoa! I like that!' When I walk out onstage, I'm the show,” Shane said. "I humble myself before my audience. I am going to sing to you and talk to you and do all the things I can so when you leave here, you'll be back here again."
Any Other Way is now available on music streaming and download platforms, and, as mentioned above, is up for Best Historical Album, a category awarded to a record’s producers and engineers, as opposed to the artist. Douglas Mcgowan, the Numero label rep who produced the album, told AP he has invited Shane to join him as his guest at the 61st GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10.