Jimmy and Jeanie Scott at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, September 4, 2004
|Birth name||James Victor Scott|
July 17, 1925|
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||June 12, 2014
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Labels||Savoy, Decca, Roost, Regal, Tangerine, King, Atlantic, J's Way, Sire, Warner Bros., Artists Only, Milestone, Venus - Japan|
James Victor "Jimmy" Scott (July 17, 1925 – June 12, 2014), often credited as Little Jimmy Scott, was an American jazz vocalist famous for his high countertenor voice and his sensitivity on ballads and love songs.
After success in the 1940s and 1950s, Scott's career faltered in the early 1960s. He slid into obscurity before launching a comeback in the 1990s. His unusual singing voice was due to Kallmann syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that limited his height to four feet eleven inches until the age of 37, when he grew eight inches. The syndrome prevented him from reaching puberty and left him with a high voice.
Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of Arthur and Justine Stanard Scott, he was the third child in a family of ten. As a child he got his first singing experience by his mother's side at the family piano, and later, in church choir. At 13, he was orphaned when his mother was killed by a drunk driver.
Lionel Hampton gave him the nickname "Little Jimmy Scott" because he looked young and was short and of slight build. His phrasing made him a favorite of artists such as Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Frankie Valli, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson.
He first rose to prominence as "Little Jimmy Scott" in the Lionel Hampton Band as lead singer on "Everybody's Somebody's Fool", recorded in December 1949. It became a top ten R&B hit in 1950. Credit on the label went to "Lionel Hampton and vocalists"; Scott received no credit on any of the songs. A similar event occurred several years later when his vocal on "Embraceable You" with Charlie Parker, on the album One Night in Birdland, was credited to the female vocalist Chubby Newsom.
In 1963 his girlfriend Mary Ann Fisher, who sang with Ray Charles, helped him sign with Tangerine Records, Charles's label, and record the album Falling in Love is Wonderful. The album was withdrawn while Scott was on his honeymoon because he had previously signed a contract with Herman Lubinsky, and it was not reissued until 40 years later. Scott disputed the contract he had with Lubinsky, who had loaned him to Syd Nathan at King Records for 45 recordings in 1957–58. Another album, The Source (1969), was not released until 2001.
Scott's career faded by the late 1960s, and he returned to his native Cleveland to work as a hospital orderly, shipping clerk, and elevator operator.
Scott resurfaced in 1991 when he sang at the funeral of his longtime friend, songwriter Doc Pomus. The event renewed his career. Afterwards Lou Reed recruited him to sing backup on the song "Power and Glory" on Reed's 1992 album Magic and Loss. Scott appeared on the series finale of David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks. He sang "Sycamore Trees", a song with lyrics by Lynch and music by Angelo Badalamenti. He was also featured on the soundtrack to the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
Also in attendance at Pomus's funeral was Seymour Stein, founder and operator of Sire Records, who released Scott's 1992 album All the Way, produced by Tommy Lipuma and featuring artists such as Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, and David "Fathead" Newman. Scott was nominated for a Grammy Award for the album.
Scott released Dream in 1994 and the jazz-gospel album Heaven in 1996. His next work, an album of pop and rock interpretations entitled Holding Back the Years (1998), was produced by Gerry McCarthy and Dale Ashley. Released in the US on Artists Only Records in October 1998, it peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. In Japan, it won the Swing Journal Award for Best Jazz Album of the Year (2000). The title track marked the first time in his career that Scott overdubbed his harmony vocal tracks. Holding Back the Years features cover art by Mark Kostabi, liner notes by Lou Reed, and includes versions of "Nothing Compares 2 U" (written by Prince), "Jealous Guy" (John Lennon), "Almost Blue" (Elvis Costello), and "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" (Elton John & Bernie Taupin).
In 1999, Scott's early recordings for Decca Records were released on CD, as were all of his recordings with Savoy Records from 1952–1975 in a three-disc box set. In 2000, Scott signed to Milestone Records and recorded four albums, each produced by Todd Barkan, and featuring a variety of jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Renee Rosnes, Bob Kindred, Eric Alexander, Lew Soloff, George Mraz, Lewis Nash, as well as Scott's own touring and recording band, The Jazz Expressions. He also released two live albums, both recorded in Japan.
During 2003–2004, PBS aired If You Only Knew, a documentary produced and directed by Matthew Buzell. It won film festival awards and the Independent Lens award.
Scott's career spanned 65 years. He performed with Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Quincy Jones, Bud Powell, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, and Peter Cincotti. He also performed with musicians from other genres, such as David Byrne, Lou Reed, Flea, Michael Stipe, and Antony and the Johnsons.
Honors and awards
Scott performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Eisenhower (1953) and Clinton (1993). On both occasions, he sang "Why Was I Born?". Later, he appeared with the lounge music group Pink Martini and continued to perform until his death.
He received the NEA Jazz Masters award (2007) from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Living Legend Award from the Kennedy Center, the Pioneer Award from NABOB (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America (2010).
Scott's recording of "If I Ever Lost You" can be heard in the opening credits of the HBO movie Lackawanna Blues. He was also mentioned on The Cosby Show (season 2, episode 25), when Clair and Cliff Huxtable bet on the year in which "An Evening in Paradise" was recorded. On August 17, 2013, at Cleveland State University, he was inducted into inaugural class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame.
- Everybody's Somebody's Fool (Decca, 1951–52, reissue 1999)
- Very Truly Yours (Savoy, 1955)
- If You Only Knew (Savoy, 1956)
- The Fabulous Songs of Jimmy Scott (Savoy, 1960)
- Falling in Love Is Wonderful (Tangerine, 1963, reissue 2003)
- The Source (Atlantic, 1969, reissue 2001)
- Lost and Found (Atlantic, 1972, reissue 2002)
- Can't We Begin Again (Savoy) (1975)
- Doesn't Love Mean More (J's Way, 1990)
- Live in New Orleans (Fantasy, 1991)
- All the Way (Sire, 1992)
- Dream (Sire, 1994)
- Heaven (Sire, 1996)
- Holding Back the Years (Artists Only, 1998)
- Mood Indigo (Milestone, 2000)
- Over the Rainbow (Milestone, 2001)
- Unchained Melody (Live Album) (Tokuma, 2001)
- But Beautiful (Milestone, 2002)
- Moonglow (Milestone, 2003)
- All of Me: Live in Tokyo (Venus, 2004)
- I Go Back Home (Eden River, 2016)
- Lost and Found (Rhino, 1993)
- Bravo Profiles: A Jazz Master (Bravo, 1993)
- Little Jimmy Scott (Savoy, 1984, 2002)
- All Over Again (Savoy Jazz, 1985, 1995)
- Everybody's Somebody's Fool (Universal, 1999)
- The Savoy Years & More (box set) (Savoy Jazz, 1999)
- Les Incontournables (Warner Bros., 2000)
- Timeless (Savoy Jazz, 2002)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (2-disc set) (Warner Bros., 2004)
- The Essential Jimmy Scott (Metro, 2005)
- Milestone Profiles: Jimmy Scott (Milestone, 2006)
- Great Scott! (2-disc set) (Jasmine, 2014)
- The Ballad of Little Jimmy Scott (DVD) (1987)
- Why Was I Born: The Life and Times of Little Jimmy Scott (TV) (Bravo Profiles Jazz Masters, 1999)
- Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (DVD) (Independent Lens, PBS, 2003–2004)
- Soul! (PBS, June 1971)
- Scotch & Milk (1998)
- Twin Peaks, "Episode 29" (TV) (1991)
- Chelsea Walls (2002)
- Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (TV) (2002)
- I Love Your Work (2005)
- Be Kind, Rewind (2005)
- Passion Play (2011)
- Ritz, David (2002). Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Da Capo. ISBN 978-0-306-81229-3.
- Ritz, David (2002). Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Da Capo. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-306-81229-3.
- Ruhlmann, William. "Jimmy Scott Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
- Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 86, 95–96, 104, 109, 129–130, 139.
- Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. p. 64.
- John Bush. "Falling In Love Is Wonderful". AllMusic. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 122–125,.
- Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. p. 223.
- Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 203–205.
- "Episode 29 Analysis". May 2, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- "At last... a Grammy Nomination for Jimmy Scott". September 23, 1992. Retrieved October 25, 2010.
- Jeff Tamarkin, "Singer Jimmy Scott Dies at 88", Jazz Times, June 13, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Ben Quinn and agencies, "Jimmy Scott, US jazz singer and Twin Peaks star, dies aged 88", The Guardian, June 14, 2014.
- Malcolm X Abram, "R&B Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland to induct first class", The Akron Beacon Journal, August 16, 2013.