Musicheads Essential Artist: Jackie Shane

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Jackie Shane
Jackie Shane (Courtesy of Numero Group)
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A powerhouse performer and an LGBTQ icon, Jackie Shane is a Musicheads Essential Artist.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1940, Jackie Shane began performing locally in the 1950s as a drummer. By the end of the decade, Shane — a Black transgender woman — sought to escape the Jim Crow south. She spent the 1960s in Canada and built a sizable following as a singer, performing at notable nightclubs and sharing stages with the likes of Etta James and Jackie Wilson.

Jackie Shane's first recorded single was a cover of "Money (That's What I Want)," released in 1962. She followed it up that same year with her rendition of "Any Other Way," which turned out to be her most successful song. After a short break from recording, she returned in 1967 with the album Jackie Shane Live. Her final single, "Cruel Cruel World," was released in 1969.

In 1970, Shane relocated to Los Angeles to care for her mother. She began withdrawing from her recording career and ultimately disappeared from the public eye.

Jackie Shane's story and music resurfaced in 2017 with a double LP compilation of her work called Any Other Way. When the reclusive Shane was discovered living in Tennessee, she agreed to collaborate on the reissue, marking the first time she had been directly involved in the release of her music since 1969.

During her musical career, Shane was often written about and referred to as a man who performed in androgynous clothing. In fact, she began identifying as a woman at the age of 13, and first shared this information publicly during an interview in 2017. She said, "I was just being me. I never tried to explain myself to anyone — they never explained themselves to me."

Shane died in her sleep at her home in Nashville in 2019. Jackie Shane was a versatile performer who could sing to the rafters with a ballad, fill the dance floor with a hit, or bring an audience to its knees with her messages of tolerance and self-love.

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