Jimmy Scott

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Jimmy Scott
Jimmy Scott.jpg
Jimmy and Jeanie Scott at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, September 4, 2004
Background information
Birth name James Victor Scott
Born (1925-07-17)July 17, 1925
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 12, 2014(2014-06-12) (aged 88)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Singing
Years active 1945–2014
Labels Savoy, Decca, Roost, Regal, Tangerine, King, Atlantic, J's Way, Sire, Warner Bros., Artists Only, Milestone, Venus - Japan
Website www.jimmyscottofficialwebsite.com

James Victor 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 4 feet 11 inches (150 cm) until the age of 37, when he grew by 8 inches (20 cm). The syndrome prevented him from reaching puberty and left him with a high voice.[1]

Early life

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.[2]

Musical career

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.[3]

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.[2] 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.[4]

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.[5][6] 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.[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 elevator operator.

Scott resurfaced in 1989 when manager Alan Eichler arranged for him to share a late-night bill with Johnnie Ray at New York's Ballroom[8]. When he sang at the funeral of his longtime friend, songwriter Doc Pomus, the event further renewed his career.[9] 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.[10][citation needed]

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.[11]

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).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Scott and his wife Jeanie lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, after purchasing a house in 2006, having previously lived in Euclid, Ohio, for ten years.

Scott died on June 12, 2014 at the age of 88.[12] He died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas,[13] of cardiac arrest. He was buried at Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.[14]

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.[citation needed]

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).[15]

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.[16]

In July 2014 - shortly after his passing - a portion of East 101st Street in Cleveland was renamed "Jimmy Scott Way" in his honor.[17]


  • Everybody's Somebody's Fool (Decca, 1951–1952, reissue: GRP, 1999) - with Lionel Hampton
  • Very Truly Yours (Savoy, 1955) - reissued as Little Jimmy Scott (Savoy, 1984)
  • If You Only Knew (Savoy, 1956) - also released as The Fabulous Voice Of Jimmy Scott
  • The Fabulous Songs Of Jimmy Scott (Savoy, 1960) - also released as The Fabulous Little Jimmy Scott; reissued as All Over Again (Savoy, 1985)
  • Falling In Love Is Wonderful (Tangerine, 1962, reissue: Rhino, 2002)
  • The Source (Atlantic, 1969, reissue: Label M, 2000)
  • Can't We Begin Again (Savoy) (1976)
  • Doesn't Love Mean More (J's Way, 1990)
  • Regal Records Live In New Orleans (Specialty, 1991) - with Paul Gayten, Sam Butera
  • All The Way (Sire, 1992)
  • Dream (Sire, 1994)
  • Heaven (Sire, 1996)
  • Holding Back The Years (AO! [Artists Only!], 1998)
  • Mood Indigo (Milestone, 2000)
  • Over The Rainbow (Milestone, 2001)
  • But Beautiful (Milestone, 2002)
  • Unchained Melody: Live In Japan (Tokuma, 2002)
  • Moon Glow (Milestone, 2003)
  • All Of Me: Live In Tokyo (Tokuma/Venus, 2004)


  • Lost And Found (Rhino, 1993)
  • Bravo Profiles A Jazz Master: Little Jimmy Scott (Rhino, 1999)
  • The Savoy Years And More (3-CD box set) (Savoy Jazz, 1999)
  • Warner Jazz Les Incontournables: Jimmy Scott (Warner Bros., 2000)
  • Timeless: Jimmy Scott (Savoy Jazz, 2002) - also released as All Or Nothing At All: The Dramatic Jimmy Scott (Savoy Jazz, 2005)
  • Someone To Watch Over Me: The Definitive Jimmy Scott (2-disc set) (Warner Bros., 2004)
  • The Essential Jimmy Scott (2-disc set) (Metro, 2005)
  • Milestone Profiles: Jimmy Scott (Milestone, 2006)
  • Great Scott! [1950–1962] (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, Bravo, 1999)
  • Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (DVD) (Independent Lens, PBS, 2003–2004)


Further reading


  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. pp. 86, 95–96, 104, 109, 129–130, 139. 
  4. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. p. 64. 
  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. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/18/arts/review-pop-jimmy-scott-wails-blues-at-ballroom.html
  9. ^ Ritz (2002). Faith in Time. pp. 203–205. 
  10. ^ "Episode 29 Analysis". May 2, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ "At last... a Grammy Nomination for Jimmy Scott". September 23, 1992. Retrieved October 25, 2010. 
  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. ^ "James Victor Scott". The Plain Dealer. July 9, 2014 ; Petkovic, John (June 14, 2014). "Cleveland jazz singer Jimmy Scott dies". The Plain Dealer. p. A1. 
  15. ^ Jazz singer Jimmy Scott dies - USA Today
  16. ^ Malcolm X Abram, "R&B Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland to induct first class", The Akron Beacon Journal, August 16, 2013.
  17. ^ Ward 6 Community News - Cleveland City Council

External links

  • Official website
  • "Jimmy Scott: A Voice from Another World", by Sufjan Stevens, The Guardian, 23 January 2010.
  • "Jimmy Scott: Five Great Performances from the Jazz Legend", The Guardian, 14 June 2014.
  • Radio interview with Jimmy Scott by Duncan Hamilton
  • Jimmy Scott on IMDb
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