Friday, October 20, 2017

Jackie Shane

Just who is Jackie Shane?  That would make a great title for an even greater documentary. Jackie Shane, for those who've been held in a cave in Pakistan by the Taliban for the past few years is a trans-gender soul performer from the 60's who cut a handful of collectible 45's and an even rarer live Canadian LP.  I'm not here to give you a full bio, so for a better run down on who Jackie was (and still is) I will direct you to this excellent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio Jackie Shane documentary from a few years back produced before Jackie's whereabouts were known (Jackie is alive and well in Nashville I'm happy to report, check out this NY times feature here). You can keep your Esquerita and Little Richard, they both might have been Kings or Queen's of camp and skirted the edge's of then forbidden sexuality but Jackie Shane was firmly "out" when "out" was risky, career stifling  and downright dangerous to one's health and freedom.  Dressing like a woman, in full on make-up in colorful clothes and affecting feminine mannerisms to the hilt Jackie Shane wasn't just a pioneer, she was a legend and still is. And though she often referred to herself as "a man" on several studio recordings she apparently left no confusion on the matter in real life and especially live onstage. On a live version of Barrett Strong's "Money" on her only LP ("Jackie Shane Live" 1967 Caravan records, Canada recorded live onstage in Toronto, Canada where she made her living) Jackie does a hip spoken word bit which clearly spells out where she was at:

"You know when I'm walking down Young Street you won't believe this but some of them funny people have the nerve to point their finger at me and grin and smile and whisper, but you know that don't worry Jackie because I know I look good. And every Monday morning I laugh and grin on my way to the bank. Cos I got mine. I look good, I got money and everything else that I need. You know what my slogan is? Baby do what you want just know what you're doin' , as long as you don't force your way or your will on anybody else you can live your live cos ain't nobody sanctified and holy....."

The rap goes on with repeated references to "chicken" (slang for young gay men apparently) and a hysterical "if you got it flaunt it" style of witty banter.  Check it out here.

I first became acquainted with Jackie Shane after seeing a few photos on a very hip and wise friend's Facebook page. I wasn't sure of her gender or even her race as the color of her skin and heavily applied make up in the old black and white and sepia photos gave her almost Asiatic features.  So decided to do some sleuthing and stumbled upon Jackie's 1963 Sue (U.S.) single "In My Tenement" . Being knee deep in a fascination with all things mid/early 60's on Sue I was immediately bowled over and wanted to hear more. A search of Discogs showed that securing an original pressing was never going to happen (3 for sale from $196.41 at last glance) so I popped over to YouTube and iTunes and checked out a gamut of Jackie's material which I immediately dug. I duly purchased everything on iTunes including the raucous 1967 live Canadian only LP (which I eventually went out a bought an original copy of).  All of the singles are worth seeking out as is the live LP.  For those afraid of the hefty price of original pressings the Numero Group label has just launched a two CD/2 LP retrospective titled "Any Other Way", fully licensed and containing every track ever released by Jackie (no mean feat considering her discography was spread over half a dozen different labels from both the US and Canada where she was based in the 60's and most popular).

Here's a few of my fave Jackie picks for your perusal:

"Any Other Way" US single A side Cookin' 602 1962 / Sue 776 1963
Delivered in a slow tempo , Jackie's cover of William Bell's 1962 Stax single takes the original's bounce down a few notches fattening up the sound with some crisp horns and cracking drums and adding a poignant, down trodden delivery.

"In My Tenement" US single A side Sue 788 1963
Jackie's most sought after 45 musically sounds like it could be ideally suited for Ben E King and lyrically calls to mind Garnet Mimm's "A Quiet Place" but far more uptown and sophisticated produced by "Juggy" Murray Jones.

"Stand Up Straight And Tall" US single B-side Modern 45xM 1031 1967
Gracing the flip of Jackie's reading of "You Are My Sunshine" is this organ driven, mid tempo groover that allows her to flex her vocal chops on top of some solid, funky musical backing.

"Don't Play That Song" LP track Canada "Jackie Shane Live" Caravan FP 100 1967
Ben E. King's "Don't Play That Song" gets a royal treatment with solid brass and churchy Hammond underneath Jackie's wailing, outtasite vocals.

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