‘I Don’t Bow Down’
Jackie Shane – A Transgender Soul Pioneer
Every so often a story appears that seems so extraordinary that it’s hard to imagine why it’s not more widely known.
Jackie Shane was a black transgendered woman growing up in the American Deep South during the 1950s and ‘60s who became a star of ‘stage, tv and recordings’ by virtue of her extraordinary confidence and her rich, deeply soulful singing voice. She was courted by Motown and Atlantic Records but turned them both down. She appeared on Ed Sullivan’s variety show and at one time, George Clinton wanted her to join his funk collective, Parliament. Being less than enamoured with the music industry, however, she dropped out of sight in the early 70s, leaving behind her a number of singles, live recordings and a legend that has only grown in stature over the years as she has consistently refused to allow her work to be re-released.
Until now… ‘Any Other Way’, a new compilation of her work is about to be released and at 77 years of age, she’s considering performing live again. In the meantime, she’s also taking pride in her retroactive legacy as a gender pioneer.
“People have come up to me and said, ‘Jackie thank you. You made it possible for me to have a life.’ That’s why I was there,” she says. “My whole approach is to get you to go up against wrong. I don’t bow down. I do not get down on my knees. The lowest I go is the top of my head. This is Jackie!”