It might take a while to make the mainstream media but news is starting to circulate that one of the greatest voices – that of Little Jimmy Scott – has been silenced. Scott was just a month shy of his 89th birthday. That contralto voice was due to the rare genetic condition Kallmann’s syndrome. He was a small man but oh how that voice soared.
I first heard it – properly, knowingly – as part of Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss album; one of my all-time favourite records by anyone. The impact of hearing Scott, of having a name to put to that voice had me on the quest – I was off finding anything and everything I could.
If you didn’t know Jimmy Scott’s voice then spend some time on YouTube getting to know it. The phrasing, so wonderful. Everything became a prayer. He had a “second” career, a comeback – around the time of the Reed album – where he went on to create a set of amazing covers of pop and rock songs.
Hear his version of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U for instance. Or Talking Heads’ Heaven. It’s to hear the songs brand new, not simply covered but reworked, reimagined, they are stories being retold, all but rewritten.
Perhaps the greatest acclaim for Scott was that he was a favourite singer of the likes of Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Frankie Valli – well you could almost roll them all into one and that would be the sound of Jimmy Scott. Almost. Because nothing could sound like he did. He was one of the sweetest voices I ever heard. I was moved to tears many times hearing his voice on those fabulous records.
A career spanning 65 years has ended. A remarkable life – an amazing story – has been put to rest. We have so much music from him though. And it doesn’t sound like anything else. It never will. And no one could ever sound quite like Jimmy Scott.