The music world - and the world at large - lost a very fine singer of standard popular songs last week when Jimmy Scott died on June 12th at age 88.
It’s surprising that the name Jimmy Scott was unknown to a good number of folks. But to those familiar with his work and his way with a song, he was a legend...and some of those who favored his work, were and are, legends in their own right: Nancy Wilson, Ray Charles, and Billie Holiday, to name a few, sang his praises. The standard pop and jazz cognoscente, knew Jimmy Scott!
Here he sings "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" at Birdland in NYC:
He was not tall in stature, nor did he possess matinee idol looks. He was only 5 feet 7 inches, but stood head and shoulders above many of his vocal contemporaries. A genetic disorder had stunted his growth and prevented his voice from going below high tenor. But ironically, his high-pitched voice and the way he used it made him unique. The ladies loved his voice and the way he interpreted romantic songs. Jimmy could flat out sing the stuffin’ out of a ballad!
I met him more than 30 years ago, and over the years, brought him on stage more than a few times at various venues in the Philadelphia area. Once, at a private gathering, he and I spent a day chatting about his life and times.
Jimmy’s wider public recognition in the U.S. came very late in his career. But when respected entertainers at home began calling his name, others began to listen. They joined fans in Europe and Asia who had been listening for years; he always sang in sold-out venues abroad.
Jimmy once had a cult-like following; but when he finally became a more recognized entity in the entertainment world, he gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Great Scott.”