I can’t remember how I found out about Jimmy Scott, but I do remember it was right around the time I moved from New York City to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2003, because I do remember gushing about him to the owner of the black-owned upscale bakery I began to frequent there. I was in my overt “connect across colorlines” phase after leaving the melting pot of NYC, and feeling like my world had gone white (you can read a little more about that on my About page).
Wanda, the owner of the bakery, often had jazz playing when I visited her shop to take home some tasty treats–slices of turtle cheesecake, fruit tarts, or to order a cake for a special occasion. I told her and her son about the jazz singer, Jimmy Scott, and how he’s often mistaken for a female singer because of his high contralto voice. Sometimes called “Little Jimmy Scott,” his small stature and high-pitched singing voice were due to Scott having Kallmann’s syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder, which prevented him from ever reaching puberty.
I brought Wanda in a copy of a Jimmy Scott CD I owned, and she appreciated the gesture, as much as I appreciated her energetic and kind manner, and her wonderful sweet delicacies. I missed her bakery after moving back East, and I have to admit, I haven’t listened to Jimmy Scott in quite some time.
When I heard that he passed away two weeks ago at the age of 88, I knew I had to pay tribute to him here. Scott, who hailed from Cleveland, sang with many of the greats–Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Wynton Marsalis, and Ray Charles. Snubbed early on by not getting credited on albums he sang on in the late 1940′s and early 1950′s, and even once having his recordings attributed to a female singer, Scott struggled for some time with getting his due recognition.
In the 1960′s the career Scott was able to build, began to fade, and he returned to Cleveland where it’s said he worked for decades as an elevator operator, hospital orderly and shipping clerk. In the early 1990′s he sang at his friend, singer/songwriter, Doc Pomus’s funeral, and it was there that Scott’s magical talent was finally recognized once again, and he began to get a good deal of attention and recording and performing opportunities. Scott was still performing right up until the time of his death, on June 12th of this year.
Here’s Scott singing, and talking about the importance of lyrics, in Time After Time.
SOURCE: www.youtube.com, Jimmy Scott, Time After Time, posted by Warner Jazz Videos
Photo Credit: www.marcussamuelsson.com