I LAST saw Jimmy Scott in person at the Jazz Bakery. It had to be about ten years ago. It wasn’t the first time, but many of us who had staked out a place in line and a good seat in the auditorium were worried, though we might not have voiced it, that it might be the last.
When the lights dimmed, Scott came out in his standard shiny lounge jacket, but also this time in what hadn’t before been a customary feature — an electric wheelchair. He hit is mark on the stage; the band counted down and and we were once again plunged into Scott’s own well-trodden vocal territory of love, longing, heartache and loss.
He might have appeared frail but his voice was anything but and his elegant hands swam before his face shaping and underscoring the lyrics story.
I had interviewed Scott a few years before this evening, as he sat propped up on a nest of pillows on his bed at the Culver Hotel reminiscing about his improbable career full of soaring highs, seemingly irrecoverable lows, dead-ends and sharp switchbacks — a career that in many ways was much like the haunting, other-worldly contours of his singular voice. He was still angry about some bad deals and shyster business practices and outcomes that had laced his career, but overall was grateful that he was still pulling audiences in, still on the road, still juggling offers and options.
That afternoon he told me: “This activity of ‘show business’ has practically been my life. Then,” he shrugs, “there are disgusting parts to think about. But, I’m glad too. Because you realize that … there might not be a second chance to recoup anything concerning your career. But fortunately, for me, that’s the joy. Being able to continue the work and still love it. It’s not a showoff thing for me. It’s a life that I have had to live.”
Scott died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88.
My full L.A. Times piece here.
My favorite Jimmy Scott.
(top image: Jimmy Scott from the documentary “Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew”)