Image Credit: Getty Images

A contemporary of icons like Little Richard and Etta James, R&B/soul singer Jackie Shane left an indelible mark on the music scene in the ’60s—and then disappeared for nearly half a century.

Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Shane couldn’t stay away from the stage. A naturally gifted singer and percussionist, her presence as a performer quickly garnered attention—not to mention her penchant for wearing high-femme looks, adorned with long hair, jewelry, and makeup.

Though we now know Shane to be a trans woman, our language around gender and identity was much more limited back then, and many in the press categorized her as an effeminate gay man, or even a drag queen.

Image Credit: ‘Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story,’ NFB/Frameline48

Regardless, her decision to live loudly and proudly as a visibly queer individual, while venerable, was a huge risk at the time, especially in the era of the Jim Crow South. So, at 19, she joined a traveling circus and made her way north to Canada, carving out her own place in the world.

It’s in Toronto that Shane’s career really took off, becoming a staple of the nightclub scene, and opening for acts like The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and The Drifters—always giving these more established names a run for their money.

And, in 1963, her recording of the William Bell song “Any Other Way” became her signature hit, reaching Top 10 status in local Toronto radio and even charting across Canadian radio in the ensuing years. Not for nothing, one of the song’s original lyrics—”Tell her that I’m happy / Tell her that I’m gay”—takes on extra resonance when sung by Shane.

Despite her steady rise, Jackie Shane quickly fell out of prominence beginning in 1970, even losing touch with many former band mates and collaborators. While rumors had swirled over the decades over her death, in actuality Shane was living a quiet life in Los Angeles while caring for her ailing mother.

It was only a few years ago that she returned to the spotlight, giving a 2017 interview to The Globe And Mail where she spoke publicly about her trans identity for the first time. Her music was reissued in a double-LP that fall titled Any Other Way, which went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album.

Sadly, Shane passed in early 2019, just as her music was having a second act. But she left behind quite the legacy, including photographs, vintage keepsakes and more, including her autobiography—literally writing her own story for future generations to hear.

Image Credit: ‘Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story,’ NFB/Frameline48

That legacy gets unpacked in the fantastic new documentary Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story from filmmakers Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee, and produced by none other than Elliot Page.

Seen through the eyes of Shane’s ancestors as they explore the artist’s writing and belongings for the first time, the film is a long-overdue appreciation of a true trans trailblazer, using never-before-heard phone conversations, evocative animation, and of course a killer soundtrack of her music.

Any Other Way just screened at San Francisco’s Frameline48, and next heads to LA’s Grammy Museum for a special presentation and performance. Before opening in Canadian theaters this August (U.S. release details still TBA), the first official trailer for the documentary has dropped, which you can watch below:

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