Jimmy Scott

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Jimmy Scott
Jimmy Scott.jpg
Scott appearing at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City on September 4, 2004
Background information
Birth name James Victor Scott
Also known as Little Jimmy Scott
Born (1925-07-17)July 17, 1925
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died June 12, 2014(2014-06-12) (aged 88)
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1945–2014
Labels Savory, Decca, Tangerine, King, Sire, Milestone
Website www.jimmyscottofficialwebsite.org

James Victor "Jimmy" Scott (July 17, 1925 – June 12, 2014), also known as "Little" Jimmy Scott, was an American jazz vocalist famous for his unusually high countertenor voice and his sensitivity on ballads and love songs.

After a series of successes in the 1940s and 1950s, Scott's career faltered by the early 1960s. He slid into obscurity before launching a well-received comeback in the 1990s. His unusual singing voice was due to Kallmann's syndrome, a very rare genetic condition. The condition stunted his growth at four feet eleven inches until, at the age of 37, he grew another eight inches to the height of five feet seven inches. The condition prevented him from reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, undeveloped voice.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Scott was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Authur and Justine Stanard Scott, the third in a family of ten. As a child Jimmy got his first singing experience by his mother's side at the family piano, and later, in church choir. At thirteen, he was orphaned when his mother was killed by a drunk driver.[2]

He first rose to 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, and which became a top ten R&B hit in 1950.[2] Credit on the label, however, went to "Lionel Hampton and vocalists", so the singer's name did not appear on any of the songs. This omission of credit was not only a slight to Scott's talent but a big 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.[3]

Lionel Hampton gave him the stage name of "Little Jimmy Scott" because he looked so young, and was short and of slight build. However, it was his extraordinary phrasing and romantic feeling that made him a favorite singer of fellow artists such as Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Frankie Valli, Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson.[4]

In 1963, it looked as though Scott's luck had changed. With the help of fellow singer, and then girlfriend, Mary Ann Fisher who had been part of Ray Charles's band from 1955 to '58, he signed to Ray Charles' Tangerine Records label, under the supervision of Charles himself, creating what is considered by many to be one of the great jazz vocal albums of all time, Falling in Love is Wonderful.[5][6]

Owing to obligations on an earlier contract that Scott had signed with Herman Lubinsky, the record was withdrawn in a matter of days, while Scott was on honeymoon. The album was not re-released for forty years. Scott disputed the "lifetime" contract; Lubinsky loaned Jimmy out to Syd Nathan at King Records for 45 recordings in 1957–58. Another album, The Source (1969), was not released until 2001.[7]

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

Comeback and later work[edit]

Scott eventually resurfaced in 1991 when he sang at the funeral of songwriter Doc Pomus, his long-time friend, an event that single-handedly sparked his career renaissance.[8] Afterwards Lou Reed recruited him to sing back-up on the track "Power and Glory" from his 1992 album Magic and Loss, which was inspired, to an extent, by Pomus's death. Scott was seen on the series finale of David Lynch's television series Twin Peaks, singing "Sycamore Trees", a song with lyrics by Lynch and music by Angelo Badalamenti. Scott was featured on the soundtrack of the follow-up film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.[9]

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 this album.[10]

He followed this up with the album Dream in 1994 and the jazz-gospel album Heaven in 1996. His next work, a critically acclaimed 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 #14 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. In Japan, it won the prestigious 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 own harmony vocal tracks. Holding Back The Years features cover art by Mark Kostabi, liner notes by Lou Reed, and includes critically acclaimed 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 on the Decca label were re-released on CD, as were all of his recordings with the Savoy Label between 1952 and 1975 in a three-disc box set. In 2000, Scott signed to the Milestone jazz label, and recorded four critically acclaimed 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, featuring the Jazz Expressions.

In 2012, he joined the 11th[11] annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers.

The Documentary "Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home" is telling the story of the jazz great Jimmy Scott and the making of this final album with film boasts performances from Joe Pesci, Arturo Sandoval and Quincy Jones.

He died on June 12, 2014, aged 88.[12] He died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas,[13] of cardiac arrest.


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 a host of musicians from other genres of music, such as David Byrne, Lou Reed, Flea, Michael Stipe, and Antony & The Johnsons.

Scott performed at the inaugurations of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (1953) and Clinton (1993), where he sang the same song, "Why Was I Born?". Later, Scott appeared in live performances with the lounge music group Pink Martini, and continued to perform internationally at music festivals and at his own concerts until shortly before his death.

In 2007, Scott received the 2007 NEA Jazz Master Award. He also received the Kennedy Center's "Jazz In Our Time" Living Legend Award, and N.A.B.O.B.'s Pioneer Award in 2007, the "Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America" in 2010, the R & B Hall of Fame Induction Award in 2013.

Scott and his wife Jeanie lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, after 2007, having previously lived in Euclid, Ohio, for 10 years.

Little Jimmy 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 in his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, he was inducted into inaugural class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame.[14]



  • 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) (Re-issue 2003)
  • The Source (Atlantic) (1969) (Re-issue 2001)
  • Can't We Begin Again (Savoy) (1975)
  • Doesn't Love Mean More (J's Way) (1990)
  • Live In New Orleans (1951 Concert) (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)
  • Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (Eden River Records) (2016)


  • Lost And Found (Rhino) (1993)
  • Bravo Profiles: A Jazz Master (Bravo) (1993)
  • All Over Again (Savoy Jazz) (1995)
  • Everybody's Somebody's Fool (Universal) (1999)
  • The Savoy Years & More (Box Set) (Savoy Jazz) (1999)
  • Les Incontournables (Warner) (2000)
  • Timeless (Savoy Jazz) (2002)
  • Someone To Watch Over Me (2-Disc) (Warner) (2004)
  • The Essential Jimmy Scott (Metro) (2005)
  • Milestone Profiles: Jimmy Scott (Milestone) (2006)
  • Great Scott! 2CD (Jasmine) 2014


  • The Ballad of Little Jimmy Scott (DVD) (1987)
  • Bravo Profiles (Jazz Masters): Why Was I Born - The Life and Times of Little Jimmy Scott (TV) (1999)
  • Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (DVD) (PBS - TV) (2003)
  • Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home Documentary Film (2017)
  • Soul! (PBS - TV) (June 1971)
  • Scotch & Milk (1998)
  • Twin Peaks – "Episode 29" (TV)(1991)
  • Chelsea Walls (2002)
  • Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (2002) (TV)
  • I Love Your Work (2005)
  • Be Kind, Rewind (2005)
  • Passion Play (2011)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Ritz, David (2002). Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Da Capo. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-306-81229-3. 
  2. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. "Jimmy Scott Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved June 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. p. 64. 
  4. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 86, 95–96, 104, 109, 129–130, 139. 
  5. ^ John Bush. "Falling In Love Is Wonderful". AllMusic. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 122–125,. 
  7. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. p. 223. 
  8. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 203–205. 
  9. ^ "Episode 29 Analysis". May 2, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  10. ^ "At last...a Grammy Nomination for Jimmy Scott". September 23, 1992. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ "11th Annual IMA Judges. Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  12. ^ Jeff Tamarkin, "Singer Jimmy Scott Dies at 88", Jazz Times, June 13, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  13. ^ Ben Quinn and agencies, "Jimmy Scott, US jazz singer and Twin Peaks star, dies aged 88", The Guardian, June 14, 2014.
  14. ^ Malcolm X Abram, "R&B Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland to induct first class", The Akron Beacon Journal, August 16, 2013.

External links[edit]