Celebrated jazz singer Jimmy Scott's smooth, effortless style and pitch-perfect tone has appealed to all types of music fans, from blue-collar workers to U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton and Dwight Eisenhower. Scott sang at both of their inaugurations. With a music career that spans more than 60 years, Scott is known as the "Singers' Singer." His friend and collaborator, Ray Charles, once said, "This man is all about feeling. He defined what "soul" is all about in singing long before anyone was using that word."
Jimmy Scott was born into a family of 10 children in 1925. He first sang in church in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Kallmann's Syndrome, a genetic ailment, caused his extremely high voice and inhibited his growth until much later in his life. When Jimmy was 12 years old, he sang in local events that caught the attention of a comedian, who took him on tour. He was featured with "The Two Flashes" dance group in the 1930s and sang with jazz singers Sir Charles and Slam Stewart and sax player Lester Young.
Big Band Era
In the 1940s, Scott teamed with Estelle "Caldonia" Young's revue, which performed throughout the Southeast. Encouraged by friends, Scott went to New York City in 1945 to appear at clubs in Harlem, where he met Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. The 23-year-old singer, nicknamed "Little" Jimmy Scott because of his size, signed with Lionel Hampton's band and started his first professional tour in 1948.
Jimmy Scott recorded his first top-ten R&B; hit, "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," in 1949. However, Lionel Hampton did not list him as the singer. Scott's second recording, 1950's "Embraceable You," appeared on a Charlie Parker album, but Scott's credit was omitted yet again. After being denied credit twice, Scott went solo with his first album for the Savory label, "Very Truly Yours," in 1955. He made two more albums: "If You Only Knew" in 1956 and "The Fabulous Songs of Jimmy Scott" in 1960.
Controversy and Comeback
Ray Charles signed Jimmy Scott to his Tangerine Records label in 1963, where Scott made the album "Falling in Love Is Wonderland." Due to a serious contract dispute between Scott and Savory Records, the album was not released until 2003. Unable to record, Jimmy Scott's career faded in the late 1960s. He returned to Cleveland to work in a hospital and a hotel for the next 30 years. In 1991, Jimmy Scott made an unexpected comeback when he sang at the funeral of his friend, Doc Pomus. The president of Sire Records, Seymour Stein, heard him and signed Scott to a new recording contract. Scott received praise and a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Album in 1992 for his album "All the Way."
During Jimmy Scott's 60-year career, he has recorded 35 albums and 23 other recordings with the likes of Lou Reed, Wynton Marsalis and Quincy Jones. The National Endowment of the Arts bestowed the Jazz Master Award to Jimmy Scott in 2007, and he also received the Kennedy Center's "Jazz In Our Time" Living Legend Award.
- Jimmy Scott: Official Website
- "Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott"; David Ritz; 2002