A LOVE LETTER
TO JACKIE SHANE
Illustration Tales of Black Eyed Jack
I still fondly remember the day I first heard a Jackie Shane record, the track was Comin’ Down written by Bobby Darin and Rudy Clark in 1963. This track resonated with me, not only for the sharp lyrics but by the rich voice that sang it with conviction. Having only been dancing on the Northern Soul scene for maybe a year or two back then, I naively went in search for a copy of Comin’ Down for my vinyl collection, what I did not realise was that it was a rare gem and expensive to boot. My plans scuppered, I vowed to find a copy of the record another day.
Skip 3 years later, I am still dancing and collecting records and I have fallen in love with Jackie Shane.
Her rich voice and candid humour was the perfect alchemy that I needed, this is clear on the LP Little Jackie Shane Live with Frank Motley and The Hitchhikers from the 1960s. Jackie’s story is amazing, not only is she a queer soul survivor, but was an unintentional pioneer who subverted the narrative of gender normative roles when it was unheard of and dangerous to do so. This force of nature then disappeared from the limelight leaving an extensive back catalogue of music behind her.
Living as a Tran’s woman in Toronto and an unsung hero of soul music, Jackie’s legacy and tenacity has helped me navigate my own queerness within the Northern Soul scene. If Jackie can take to the stage and live her true self, so can I, with that in mind when I went to explore the soul scene in Japan in early 2018, I took my love of Jackie to Japan with me. Surely there wouldn’t be anyone here who felt like I did about her?
In the past year A&R man Douglas McGowan from The Numero Group finally tracked Jackie down and she re-emerged after four decades. His love and friendship with Jackie has now enabled her to re-release her music titled Any Other Way for a new generation, and her legacy has united us all in some form or another.
When I heard she had been tracked down, this paragon of gender-queerness, my idol, I could not wait to make contact somehow. Unfortunately she was not available for interview, however as compensation I have finally found a beat up copy of Comin’ Down and although it skips, I will treasure it forever.
You never know perhaps one day Jackie and I will listen to it together.
Since this article was published Jackie Shane has sadly passed away.
May 5th 1940 - Feb 21st 2019
via Numero Group
What a surprise it was when I heard Comin’ Down being played for the first time outside my bedroom by DJ Yasunari James Fujii and DJ Misty in Osaka at an event called The Beat. James and Misty run The Beat and their passion and knowledge of soul music was captivating. Who would have thought when Jackie leapt onto the stage at the Saphire Tavern in 1967 that her sound and influence would still be heard in a club in Osaka in 2018?
Jackie’s influence also taught Misty some valuable lessons: In her own words, ‘’If you’re busy hating, you don’t have time to succeed and there is nothing wrong with living your true life so long as you aren’t hurting anybody else. Her songs - be it her own compositions or covers - are timeless through her voice because they played on her experiences with racism, and as a transgender woman at a time where being her true self was illegal. Jackie took up space without compromise and did it with a voice that turned trauma into triumph.’’
‘’THAT is where soul music comes from. That she found my hometown of Toronto her safest space reminds me I don’t have to compromise either. You don’t have to worry about fitting in if you’re fabulous because you’ll find your place; be it memorialized on a mural in Toronto or in your home away from home. Because of Ms. Shane, I know I can make home any damn place I want it to be.’’