Rifftides reader David Chilver wrote from Great Britain to alert us to a program that recently ran on BBC Radio 4 about the life, frustration, courage and ultimate success of the singer Jimmy Scott. Scott died in 2014 at the age of 88. His high contralto resulted from a childhood hormonal condition that blocked normal vocal development. The voice made him an object of ridicule and abuse, and for years a callous label owner blocked his recording career. Yet, Scott managed to wrap the anguish of discrimination and mistreatment into his artistry. He adapted his unusual voice to a style that late in his life attracted a wide audience. His admirers included Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and the soul singer Marvin Gaye, who was heavily influenced by Scott.
The BBC’s Mary Anne Hobbs hosted the half-hour broadcast. It includes extensive samples of Scott’s singing and has stories from, among others, his wife, his biographer David Ritz and producer Tommy LiPuma, who oversaw Scott’s final recordings.
To hear the show from the network’s archive, click here.
We follow Ms. Hobbs’s program with its subject performing in Tokyo in 2000. He is accompanied by his rhythm section—Mike Kanan, piano; Hill Greene, bass; and Dwayne “Cook” Broadax, drums. Masaru Uchibori conducts the orchestra.
Jimmy Scott, a rare and unusual talent who persevered.