JACKIE SHANE: UNSUNG TRANSGENDER PIONEER
Written by ZenKC on February 13, 2019
Story by: Chuck Tackett
JACKIE SHANE: UNSUNG TRANSGENDER PIONEER
“Tell her that I’m happy. Tell her that I’m Gay.”
“Any Other Way”
The following article is a perfect example of why I began my weekly Chuck’ss Chat features 23 years ago.
I realized I was not very learned when it came to LGBTQ history. I wanted to enlighten myself and pass on to others the knowledge I acquired. I felt a lot of folks in my age group Baby Boomers somewhat dropped when it came to the next generation of LGBTQs- Generation X. Gen X at that particular period of time was in their 20’s. Now presently thanks to Kaci of kcpride.com, my weekly articles are on the internet. a blog I am told is what it’s called. I’m a Blogger, Y’all. (laughing)
Now that Chuck’s Chat is a blog, from time to time, I can post music videos and other videos to help me enhance my articles and points that I am trying to make. Now that it is 2019, I have Millennials and Gen Z readership. From time to time, there have been criticisms of me using old school music. To those people, there is a method to what I am doing. I use a lot of music from the 1960s-1990s because I want to remind my Baby Boomer and Generation X readers on how we were in our youth. We were not satisfied with the status quo of our parents and grandparents ways in how they ran society. We protested in the streets, used music and other pop culture to make our point in expressing ourselves.
For my Millennial and Gen Z readers, I wanted to tattle (lol) on your parents and grandparents. I wanted to show you a glimpse of how we were when we were young. I wanted to show you the message in our music and that what you are saying is nothing new for the most part. It is just the tools you use to get the message across is new. Always remember, one day you will be our ages. You will have future generations f LGBTQs to teach, mentor and assist.
If you are a regular follower of my weekly Chuck’s Chats, you know the story of why I got started. It was the lack of LGBTQ history being told. Young Gen X LGBTQs were bragging about how original an entertainer RuPaul was. I let them know about Sylvester. They never heard of him. Well, I just found out recently I was wrong. There was an artist similar to Sylvester back in the 1950s – 1960s. Her name was Jackie Shane. I never heard of her. She took it a step further than Sylvester.
Jackie Shane was the world’s first Transgender R&B singer. Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1940, Jackie knew she was different while she was growing up. By the time Shane was 13, he already had the thought that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. At that particular time, Jackie described herself as just being Gay to her peers. That was a courageous and courageous thing to do especially in the Jim Crow South.
Around 1959, Shane migrated to Toronto. She was discovered by musician Herbert “King” Whitaker. Jackie went with Whitaker to go see the popular band “Frank Motley & The Motley Crew.” Shane and Whitaker were sitting up front. Motley invited Shane to the stage. Shane at that time presented himself as a man.
Jackie soon became the band’s lead vocalist. Several times she would return to The United States touring with the band, to record songs and to appear/perform in a local TV show in Nashville. While performing, Jackie would either go full drag or she would wear men’s clothing with a wig and full makeup on. All during the 1960s, she had regional hits around the Toronto area.
Around 1970-71, Jackie Shane of her own volition faded in prominence from the music scene even from her bandmates. She went to Los Angeles to care for her ill mother. while she was there, Jackie turned down an offer from musician George Clinton of “Parliament Funkadelic” fame to be a member of his band. After the death of her mother, Jackie returned to Nashville, Tennesee.
For decades, no one knew the fate of Jackie Shabe. Rumors started that she committed suicide or was murdered. In 2010, CBC Radio made a documentary on Shane’s life even though they were not sure if she was dead or alive. Jackie Shane transitioned to living life as a Transgender woman in Nashville.
In 2017, a group of Toronto writers published the essay anthology “Any Other Way How Toronto Got Queer.” It was a history of LGBTQ culture in Toronto. In addition to taking its title from a song by Jackie Shane’s 1962 hit single, the book included an essay devoted specifically to Jackie.
In that same year, the reissue label “Numero Group” released a double LP/CD compilation of Shane’s songs. That album was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Historical Album”.
Jackie Shabe is now a 77-year-old Transgender woman living in Nashville. She is pretty much a recluse, and only ventures out once a month for groceries and other supplies. she purposely does not like to mingle with people. When she does venture out she wears a hat and sunglasses so she will not be recognized. When she was asked on the telephone about her thoughts on the legalization of same-sex marriage, Jackie responded. “We should have been able to do it from the very beginning. We’ve had to fight for everything that should have been ours from the very beginning.”
Jackie Shane. truly an unsung Transgender pioneer.
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