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Jackie Shane, Elusive Trans Soul Singer of the '60s, Dead at 78

Jackie Shane, Elusive Trans Soul Singer of the '60s, Dead at 78
Numero Group

Jackie Shane, a trailblazing transgender soul singer of the '60s who had only recently been rediscovered, has died.

Her producer and friend Douglas Mcgowan confirmed to The New York Times that Shane's body had been found in her Nashville home Thursday, but could not confirm a specific date or cause of death.

Shane was born in Nashville and emigrated to Canada around 1959, becoming a major part of the Toronto music scene. She was noted by locals for her wigs, makeup, and sparkly costumes since she was described as a man publicly, but had identified as a woman since her early teens. With few other precedents, she was often compared to flamboyant rocker Little Richard, and was even fictitiously linked to him as a cousin.

In 1963, Shane's cover of the soul song "Any Other Way" was a #2 Canadian hit. It would go on to become her signature tune, notable for her sly reading of the lines, "Tell her that I'm happy/Tell her that I'm gay."

Getty Images
Shane in an early press photo

After a few more singles, a live album, and great success in clubs, Shane walked away from her musical career in 1971, moving to Los Angeles to care for her sick mother. She did not resurface until the CBC aired a 2010 documentary on her life, "I Got Mine: The Jackie Shane Story," at which time she confirmed she was alive and well and back in Nashville. Since then, she has given very few interviews, but gave her only on-air interview to the producer of the documentary on her life just weeks ago. The intensely private artist said she regretted leaving Canada and her career, described fleeing her birthplace in the Jim Crow South, and emphasized that she loved her fans.

She told The New York Times in 2017 she was not impressed with the state of pop music, promising, "I'm going to have to school these people again." In her CBC interview, she hinted she may have been planning a return to Toronto.

Her final musical statement came with the release of "Any Other Way," a double-CD compilation of all her recorded work released by Numero Group, and the first project on which she had directly collaborated in nearly 50 years. It was nominated for a Grammy earlier this month.

Shane has no known survivors.