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Farewell: Jimmy Scott


Jimmy Scott

There was never a purer spirit. He had such vulnerability, such a haunting sound. When I worked with Jimmy Scott in some New York clubs, I remember it felt a little like a religious experience. When he sang, there was a reverence in the room. The audience listened intently, moved by the raw intensity of his voice. He was a joy to accompany. The soulfulness of his tone and his magical elastic phrasing inspired me. He was comfortable in the silences. He once said, “When I sang, I soared. I could soar higher than all those hurts aimed at my heart.” Every time he performed, Jimmy reached down to his emotional core, and it was impossible not to feel something in your gut.

His life was filled with profound emotional and physical challenges. When Jimmy was 13, he tragically lost his mother in a car accident, and about the same time he was diagnosed with Kallmann syndrome. However, he saw his suffering as his salvation and was liberated by it, and this bravery was always at the core of his artistry: “All I needed was the courage to be me,” he said. “That courage took a lifetime to develop.”

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