Sensational Jazz Singer Jimmy Scott Dies At 88

Jimmy Scott (right) appearing at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City on September 4, 2004.(Photo: Professor Bop/Wikimedia)
Jimmy Scott (right) appearing at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City on September 4, 2004.(Photo: Professor Bop/Wikimedia)

I had never heard of jazz singer Jimmy Scott until I happened upon his obituary a few days ago. Scott died on June 12, 2014 at the age of 88.

The next day Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air ran an interview with Scott from 1991 and played examples of his singing.

I have never heard music phrased so eloquently and I have never encountered such sensitivity to lyrics since Maria Callas died almost 40 years ago.

Jimmy Scott was born with a genetic condition called Kallman’s Syndrome. He never went through puberty.  His voice may have had a lot in common with the castrati singers loved by Handel and his era. Voices with female overtones produced in a man’s body. These apparently were voices of enormous power and range. The castrati were the rock stars of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Jimmy Scott didn’t need to be a rock star. He was a wonderful stylist with a different kind of voice:

Jimmy’s career got off to a got start. He partnered with Lionel Hampton and produced hit records through the 1950s. Soon after it all tanked. Scott took work as a hospital orderly. He was rediscovered in 1991 when his singing at the funeral of Doc Promus knocked the congregation upside the head. Lou Reed facilitated Jimmy Scott’s comeback album, All the Way

I find his voice and his singing hypnotic. God bless him.

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