By Greg Haymes
The great jazz singer Jimmy Scott died at his Las Vegas home last Thursday (June 12). He was 88 years old.
Scott was heartbreak personified. A jazz ballad singer without peer, he maintained his delicate, ethereal voice of an angel almost to the end. And despite a lifetime of hard luck and disappointment, he remained almost impossibly optimistic.
During a 2003 interview prior to a scheduled benefit concert at the Palace Theatre (which was subsequently cancelled), Scott explained, “Of course, you’ve got to really love the music. So many singers just do it because there’s a show to be done. No, for me it has a little more value than that. For me, it’s all about good music and what that music is projecting. Is it projecting good or happiness? Is it awakening the soul of a man? That’s what’s important.
“After all these years … 60-some years … my goodness, if I didn’t get anything more out of it than just the glamour, I’d be lost.”
Scott’s life was less than idyllic, but somehow he has managed to translate his tragedies into music. The third of ten children, he was diagnosed at an early age with Kallman’s Syndrome, a rare hormonal deficiency which prevented the onset of puberty and restricted his growth. Consequently, his voice never changed, remaining an eerie, androgynous soprano/alto his whole life.