The Kennedy Center

Jimmy Scott


Jimmy Scott, a man with a voice that breaks women's hearts and makes men cry, has been on a journey that has taken nearly 80 years to find its much-deserved success. His high, piercing vocal style has influenced scores of singers including Nancy Wilson, Frankie Valli, Marvin Gaye, Frankie Lymon, and Stevie Wonder. A Cleveland native, Mr. Scott discovered his passion for singing while working as a valet for a male dance team. Mr. Scott picked up gigs where he could and finally took his act on the road. He joined the Lionel Hampton Band in 1949 and made his 1950 debut recording Everybody's Somebody's Fool, which reached No.6 on Billboard's R & B chart. He worked with several other bands before recording such classic ballads as “When Did You Leave Heaven?” “Imagination” and “Don't Cry Baby” for Savoy (1955). He recorded Falling in Love is Wonderful (1962) for Ray Charles' Tangerine label. A lawsuit by Savoy prevented him from recording for six years, and original issues of Falling in Love is Wonderful are said to be among the most coveted and highly priced prizes for jazz collectors. Mr. Scott later started his own J's Way Records, went into semi-retirement for about a decade and to support himself, worked as an aide in a nursing home and as a shipping clerk. In 1984 an old friend phoned Newark's jazz station WBGO to ask why Jimmy Scott's voice was never on the air. WBGO invited him for an afternoon talk show and Mr. Scott returned to a full-time career, but found himself performing in the same second-rank venues that he had been forced to play in during his early career. Mr. Scott's friend, the legendary songwriter Doc Pomus, wrote a letter published in Billboard , beseeching the recording industry to take advantage of Scott's unique voice before time ran out. At Pomus' funeral, Seymour Stein, of Warner Brothers, heard Mr. Scott sing “Someone to Watch Over Me” and offered a contract. Mr. Scott's album All The Way (Warner Bros. 1992) earned him a Grammy nomination. Over the past decade he has toured Europe and Japan and appeared in major clubs such as New York City's Tavern on the Green, Birdland, and Bottom Line. He toured with Lou Reed, recorded with Bruce Springsteen and Ray Charles, and teamed up with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a cut on a compilation of cocktail classics. His music has been heard on the soundtrack of the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross ; he appeared in the digital video feature Last Word on Paradise (for Bravo, Ethan Hawke, director) and on the final episode of the TV series Twin Peaks. Mr. Scott sang for Clint Eastwood's After Hours-Live at Carnegie Hall album and performed for President Clinton's 1993 Inauguration. Mr. Scott's East Coast band is known as The Jazz Expressions. His albums issued during the past decade include Dream (Warner Bros., 1994); All Over Again (Savoy Jazz, 1995); Holding Back the Years (Artists Only Records, 1998) Savoy Years & More (Box Set, excerpts from early recordings, Savoy Jazz 1999); Mood Indigo (Milestone, 2000), Over the Rainbow (Milestone, 2001), and But Beautiful (Milestone, 2002). His original hit album Falling in Love is Wonderful (Jimmy Scott, vocals and Ray Charles, piano) was re-mastered by Wea/Warner-Rhino in 2003 and his most recent album is The Fabulous Songs (Savoy Jazz, April 22, 2003). Jimmy Scott appeared at the Kennedy Center on November 9, 1998, as featured guest for Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center, taped live for later airing on NPR member stations.

April 2004
Jimmy Scott