Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mister Jimmy

Watched a DVD: Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew. Pretty good documentary of the great singer with the high voice. It squeezes in as much life and song as possible, with a generous amount of both concert footage and interviews with the subject and his friends. Scott, now 80, never really took off as a singer until he was well past senior citizen age, and the film portrays a lifetime of disappointments, tragedies, near-successes, and the affliction that gave him his distinction: a rare disorder that stunted his growth and kept him from ever reaching puberty.

It would make a great movie, and it certainly has a movie ending. The singer/songwriter Doc Pomus made a strong public appeal that Jimmy Scott be recognized before he dies; then, by a strange twist of fate, Pomus dies, Scott performs at his funeral, Sire Records President Seymour Stein hears him, and the rest is history.

I first heard Scott when he performed on that old PBS concert show hosted by David Byrne, "Sessions on 53rd Street," I think it was called, and I bought his latest disc not long after. It was <i>Holding Back the Years,</i> where Scott tackles a number of recent standards -- the Simply Red title cut, Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U," and Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" among them -- slows them waaaaaaaaaay down to his tempo, and tenderly caresses every word. Perfect, late night romantic soul.

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