Alicia Keys will host the 61st annual Grammy Awards, the music industry’s biggest night that celebrates the best in the recording arts from the last year. As usual, the Grammy’s are sure to impress the millions watching at home with powerful performances. This year Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, Brandi Carlile, Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monáe, and Ricky Martin will take the stage among many other talents. And hundreds of nominees will be anxiously awaiting to hear if they can snag the most coveted award in music. One such project that many may not have heard of involves an unsung hero who at the age of 78 has garnered her first Grammy Award nomination. Well, her music has at least. Her name, Jackie Shane.
Billboard recently shared an interview with Shane that tells the incredible history of the soul artist. Shane, who grew up in Nashville, is a black trans artist who was a star on the rise in the 1960s, selling out shows and nightclubs in Toronto. During a time in the world when being transgender didn’t even have a definition, many couldn’t grapple with the idea of gender identity, but Shane never had an issue with fans nor during her performances. She was part of a revolution that included people from all walks of life.
I started dressing [as a female] when I was 5. And they wondered how I could keep the high heels on with my feet so much smaller than the shoe. I would press forward and would, just like Mae West, throw myself from side to side. What I am simply saying is I could be no one else. Even in school, I never had any problems. People have accepted me.
But in 1971, she disappeared. No music, no records. Gone.
For many years people speculated that Shane had died and her records became a hot commodity because the person who could have been a legend was no more.
In 2010 the Canadian Broadcasting Company produced an audio documentary about Shane and soon she became the object of interest for many archivists and recording professionals.
When Shane was located in 2014 by Douglas Mcgowan, an A&R scout for archival record label Numero Group, she was living back in Nashville, where she was born in 1940. So started an ongoing relationship between Shane and Mcgown and others who began working on a two-disc set of her live and studio recordings that almost no one has ever heard. In 2017 her album, Any Other Way, was released and has now earned a Grammy Award nomination for best historical album this year.
Since 1971, Shane has led a very private life, but it was her relationship with her mother that ultimately led her to quit show business and tend to her widowed mother. She also described being too tired from the nightlife and wanting a break:
I needed to step back from it. Every night, two or three shows and concerts. I just felt I needed a break from it. I don’t know. Because it takes a lot out of you. I give all I can. You are really worn out when you walk off that stage.
Her life is still so private that those who have collaborated with her on Any Other Way have only spoken with her over the phone. But now that her album, a compilation of her music from the 60s and 70s, is nominated for this award, will Jackie Shane grace the world with her presence? Since the Best Historical Album is given to only producers and engineers, Rob Bowman, Rob Sevier, Ken Shipley, Jeff Lipton, and Maria Rice are all nominated with Douglas Mcgowan, but Jackie Shane, unfortunately does not get the award as the artist. Mcgowan has invited Shane to the awards ceremony as his guest.
In any case, Shane is excited to be able to share her music with the masses after so many decades:
It’s like my grandmamma would say, ‘Good things come to those who wait. All of the sudden it’s like people are saying, ‘Thank you, Jackie, for being out there and speaking when no one else did.’ No matter whether I initiated it or not, and I did not, this was the way that fate wanted it to be.
There is no confirmation that Jackie Shane will be present at the Grammy Awards, but here’s hoping she shows up being her fierce and funky self, strutting her stuff down that red carpet.
Any Other Way is available everywhere music is sold.