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Back from the dead: transgender pioneer Jackie Shane nominated for Grammy

Last Updated Jan 22, 2019 at 6:28 pm EDT

Thousands of people walk by her image everyday and may not know the impact she has had on music history.

Musician Jackie Shane, 78, is one of a dozen musicians that are forever immortalized on a mural on Yonge street in downtown Toronto.

“She was a trailblazer, she was brave, she was a pioneer, she is an extraordinary person,” music writer and York University professor Rob Bowman told CityNews.

Jackie Shane was born in Nashville in 1940. When she was 13 years old, she came home and told her mom something she had been holding back for years.

“Think about this — she was born a black boy in Nashville and in 1953, at the age of 13, she came home and told her mom: ‘Mom I’m a woman in a man’s body.'”

Bowman was part of the production team that put together the transgender pioneer’s album Any Other Way, nominated for best historical album at the Grammy Awards this year. His liner notes for the album are a 20,000 word essay about the singer’s unbelievable life.

“Her story is like a story out of a Hollywood script,” Bowman said. “She had been kidnapped by mobsters twice, she came up to Canada in a carnival but left the carnival after about a week. She wanted to get out of the southern United States and used it as her ticket out and ended up in Toronto.”

When Jackie came to Canada she performed at clubs in Montreal and Toronto and instantly made a mark on the cities.

“Everybody here knew her as this great vocalists and this incredible performer on stage.”

Jackie worked with legendary musicians over the decades. At one point, she found herself making wigs for Little Richard and jammed alongside someone she simply called Jim — who happened to be the one and only Jimi Hendrix.

In the early 70’s however, she suddenly left the music scene and nobody heard from her again for over 40 years — leaving many to believe she was dead — until an album from her surfaced in 2017.

“I always wondered what happened to her. Why did she leave? I wanted to write about her in the 70s and then 45 years later, I got a called from The Numero Group. They said they signed her to a deal to reissue her music,” said Bowman.

“It shocked the heck out of me that she agreed to a deal, but also that she wasn’t dead!”

The Grammy Awards will air live on City TV on February 10.