Jackie Shane Dead, Influential Transgender Singer Passed Away At 78

Jackie Shane, an openly transgender singer from the 1960s, has died.

Jackie Shane, an openly transgender singer from the 1960s, has died.

Jackie Shane was an influential African American soul singer who’s music became widely popular in the south. She grew up feeling like a girl in a boy’s body and later decided to live life openly as a transgender woman. It was because of her mother’s unwavering support that she decided to pursue this lifestyle and encouraged many others to be open about their identity. She was found dead in Nashville on February 21 at 78-years-old, according to The Mercury News.

Shane was born in Nashville, Tennessee in the 1940s. At this time, it was of course not widely acceptable to identify as a different gender than that with which you were born with. However, Shane claimed she was lucky enough not to have to endure much hostility upon transition. In fact, she found that most people in her life tended to accept her for who she was.

“Even in school, I never had any problems, people have accepted me,” she said.

The singer developed a love of music at a young age and started her career by playing drums for Nashville R&B and gospel record labels. Because of her hometown of Nashville, she had the opportunity to be exposed to many great artists. She met soul singer Jackie Wilson when she was only a teenager and was invited to join him on tour. She later became familiar with Jimi Hendrix who would prove to be a very influential figure in her life.

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Knowing singing was her true life passion, she began to churn out singles in quick succession, and covered hits such as, “Money (That’s What I Want),” “You Are My Sunshine” and “Any Other Way.” Before long, audiences of both black and white Americans were coming out to nightclubs to watch her perform. It was unusual for an African American transgender performer to garner such success at this time, and she found herself receiving an incredible amount of attention. However, she eventually dropped out of the public eye in 1971, according to CBC News. Nevertheless, her fans remember the confidence and self-awareness she expressed in a candid interview before she died.

“I have never felt that I had to change or do anything that wasn’t natural to me. I will never, ever be some kind of wishy-washy creature that pretends or lets others guide me. I guide my life. It is mine. No matter what anyone says, I’m going to be Jackie. That’s all I can be. That’s all I know. It’s what I feel from my heart and my soul.”

It is because of this honesty that her legacy will continue to live on.