Honouring Trans Musician Jackie Shane’s Toronto Legacy With Commemorative Plaque
Fans and the public are invited to contribute to a fundraising campaign to celebrate and honour musician Jackie Shane with a commemorative plaque in downtown Toronto. Shane was a pioneering trans soul singer who packed nightclubs and electrified the Toronto music scene in the 1960s. This campaign seeks to raise funds to erect a plaque near the former site of the Saphire Tavern.
The legacy and influence of the ’60s Toronto soul singer and Black trans pioneer has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, including a 2019 Grammy nomination, a Polaris Music Prize Heritage Award nomination, and a recent Heritage Minute. Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story, a Crave Original documentary co-produced by Banger Films, Bell Media and the NFB, is currently in production with an anticipated release in 2024.
Born in 1940 in Nashville, Tennessee, Jackie Shane became involved in the local R&B and soul scene, performing alongside acts like the Impressions, Jackie Wilson, and Etta James. Shane drew influence for her own performances from friend Little Richard.
Appalled by racism in the Jim Crow south, Shane moved to Boston and Montreal before settling in Toronto. “One cannot choose where one is born”, she told the CBC in 2019, “but you can choose your home. I chose Toronto. I love Toronto. I love Canadian people. I consider myself a part of them.”
Shane packed nightclubs and became a fixture on the Toronto music scene in the 1960s. She recorded a live album at the Saphire Tavern and had a No. 2 hit on the CHUM singles chart with Any Other Way. Shane abruptly retired from music in 1971 and moved to Los Angeles to care for her mother. A CBC radio documentary in 2010 and a 2017 anthology record rekindled interest in Shane’s pioneering career. The anthology was nominated for a Grammy in 2019, the same year Shane died in Nashville.
Since her death, Shane has received widespread recognition for her role as a prominent trans performer at a time when artists like her were not as visible. In 2024, Shane will be the subject of a documentary film called “Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story” that will bring her story vibrantly to life through intimate recorded conversations with Jackie, highlight her family’s journey to discover her legacy, and include voices of those who were inspired by her tenacity to be herself. The film is being made by a team of people, including producer and creative visionary Amanda Burt (@brutisme).
All donors will be invited to the unveiling of the plaque, which is planned for June 2023 during Pride Toronto. Donors can also follow and join the journey on Instagram at @thejackieshaneplaque. Donations, public or private, can be made through the JustGiving Campaign Page or by cheque, and gifts $20 or over will receive a Heritage Toronto charitable donation tax receipt. Jackie’s living relatives will be in attendance.
Toronto DJ and Music Enthusiast, Denise Benson, had this to say:
I genuinely LOVE the music of Jackie Shane. She was an incredible vocalist as well as performer – she owned the mic as well as the stage.
I love the fact that Jackie felt so deeply connected to Toronto. She experienced some of the biggest moments in her career here, including numerous headlining performances at the Saphire Tavern – where she recorded the truly visceral album Jackie Shane Live!, originally released in 1967. Not only are the songs just as fresh and body moving today, to hear the way Jackie interacted with her audience is truly a treat. She was one of a kind.
One of a kind also because Jackie Shane lived openly and boldly as the person she knew herself to be. Back in the day, Jackie was often described as a flamboyant, cross-dressing gay man. Later, as society started to catch up with language and a range of gender expressions and identities, Jackie was more understood as a trans woman. She was gender-queer long before that expression existed. It could not have been easy.
Jackie was a trailblazer, an inspiration, an artist on her way to stardom – until she stepped away from it all. There is so very much to her story.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.