Friday Night Music, October 9: Little Jimmy Scott, “Someone To Watch Over Me,” 1955

Some of you probably have never heard of Little Jimmy Scott. If you ever saw The Cosby Show, Cliff and Clair loved him. And I grew to love him too, the male singer with a woman’s stunning voice.

From Wikipedia:

Scott has Kallmann’s syndrome, a genetic condition. The condition stunted his growth at four feet eleven inches until, at age 37, he grew another 8 inches to the height of five foot seven inches. The condition prevented him from reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, undeveloped voice in the contralto range, hence his nickname “Little” Jimmy Scott.

Lionel Hampton gave him the stage name of “Little Jimmy Scott” because he looked so young, and was short and slight of build. However, it was his extraordinary phrasing and romantic feeling that made him a favorite singer of fellow artists like Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson.

Scott first rose to national prominence as “Little Jimmy Scott” in the Lionel Hampton Band when he sang lead on the late 1940s hit “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”, recorded in December 1949 was a top ten R&B hit in 1950. Credit on the label, however, went to ‘male vocalist’, a slight to his talent and a blow to his career. A similar professional insult occurred several years later, when his vocal on “Embraceable You” with Charlie Parker, on the album “One Night in Birdland”, was credited to female vocalist Chubby Newsome.

In 1963, it looked as though Scott’s luck had changed for the good. Signed to Ray Charles’s Tangerine label, he recorded under the supervision of the great man himself, creating what is considered by many to be one of the great jazz vocal albums of all time, Falling in Love is Wonderful. Owing to obligations on a contract Jimmy had signed earlier with Herman Lubinsky, the record was yanked from the shelves in a matter of days, while Jimmy was honeymooning, 40 years later this cult album became available to the public again. Jimmy disputes the ‘lifetime’ contract; Lubinsky loaned Jimmy out to Syd Nathan at King Records for 45 recordings in 1957 and 1958.

Another legendary masterpiece, the album The Source (1969), on which Jimmy sings as intensely as ever, was denied a release until 2001.

Scott’s career faded by the late 1960s and he returned to his native Cleveland to work in a hospital and as an elevator operator in a hotel.

But then, Lou Reed and David Lynch helped to resuscitate his career. Scott sang back-up on “Power and Glory” on Reed’s album, Magic and Loss that was based on Doc Pomus, a man both singers greatly admired; and later David Lynch asked Scott to sing “Sycamore Trees,” on the show, Twin Peaks, and its film sequel, Fire Walk with Me. Thereafter, Scott has remained in the public eye. All of his earlier recordings on Decca and Savoy have been reissued.

More recently, Scott performed with the group, Pink Martini. He continues to perform at jazz festivals, concerts, and at clubs. He currently makes his home with his wife in semi-retirement in Las Vegas. Jimmy Scott is eighty-four; he was born July 17, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Official website is here.

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~ by blksista on October 9, 2009.

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