Barrier-breaking transgender soul singer Jackie Shane has died at the age of 78, Billboard reports.
The Toronto-based artist was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but relocated to Canada to start her music career. In an interview with the CBC, she said her move was prompted by racial animus in the South. She saw a mob of white men attack a Black man during the height of Jim Crow.
Since the age of 13, she has lived as a female despite some bullying in grade school and the music industry's insistence on misgendering her.
“Even in school, I never had any problems,” Shane said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year. “People have accepted me.”
Shane rose to the top of the charts with her hit single "Any Other Way" released in 1962. The clear vocal talent put her in the same company as Etta James and Jackie Wilson, some critics opined.
Her local popularity attracted interest from Atlantic and Motown. For roughly a decade, she made music until she abruptly ended it all. She lived in semi-seclusion, moving from Canada back to Nashville and then Los Angeles. But Toronto remained her home.
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"I’m devastated to report that our friend and hero Jackie Shane passed away peacefully in her sleep earlier this week," Douglas Mcgowan, A&R for Shane's label, Numero Group, said in a statement.
"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."
The artist was recognized by the Grammys in 2018 with a nomination for Best Historical Album, for Any Other Way. Toronto residents can still witness her likeness in a 20-story musical mural in the city featuring other influential musicians including Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ronnie Hawkins and Gordon Lightfoot.
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