Song Of The Day 11/14/2014: Jimmy Scott - "Heaven"



Quarterly Covers Report: Somehow I missed that Jimmy Scott passed away in June. He was known as "Little" Jimmy Scott when he sang with Lionel Hampton's band in the late '40s and '50s. Scott had Kallman Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that prevents one from ever reaching puberty. He was under five feet tall until he turned 37, when he unexpectedly sprouted eight additional inches. Scott's voice never matured the way it's supposed to, physically at least, but listening to any of his late-career recordings and calling him an immature vocalist is the dumbest combination of things you could do this side of drinking and driving. Unjustly messed around during his recording career, when he was curtly shut out from credit on some records where he very clearly played the most important part, Scott disappeared between the '60s and 1991, when he sang at Doc Pomus' funeral. That's when his renaissance era started getting in motion: Seymour Stein signed him to Sire, David Lynch used him in the final episode of Twin Peaks, and he made the most haunting jazz vocal albums of their time until near the time of his death.

One of those albums was Heaven, a 1996 meditation on Scott's gospel roots and rumination on the possibilities of the afterlife. The title track was a reworking of Talking Heads' 1979 song from Fear of Music. Scott's version almost entirely rearrangements my perceptions of the original. It doesn't possess the same artifcial innocence of David Byrne's version. It contains a kind of hard-won, weary acceptance, now with the hope that nothing's gonna happen for a change, rather than annoyed anticipation that we'll just be crossing across another threshold into emaciated expectations. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the arc of Scott's life and the fact that it finally, from all appearances, finished closer to the way he'd imagined it in the homestretch. I'll have no comment beyond that.
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