• Jimmy Scott backstage

    Jimmy Scott backstage


The Film

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew is a film portrait of the now famous jazz vocalist who was “rediscovered” decades after he disappeared from the public eye. Born in Cleveland in 1925, Jimmy Scott’s early years were filled with devastating hardships. At age 12, he was diagnosed with Kallmann’s Syndrome, a rare hormonal condition that kept his body — and his voice — from developing beyond boyhood. Seven months after the diagnosis, his beloved mother, the sole guardian of Scott and his nine siblings, was killed in a car accident. Her children were separated and sent to live in foster homes.

Scott, who had inherited his mother’s love of music and singing, dreamed of breaking into show business. At the urging of his friend Redd Foxx, Scott went to New York and landed a job as one of the Lionel Hampton Band’s featured vocalists. In 1950, the band released a recording with “Little Jimmy Scott” singing “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool.” The song was an immediate hit, but it broke Scott’s heart. His name was not on the record. As he recalls, “It was all about Lionel Hampton and that’s the way the package worked.”

As for Scott’s career, history repeated itself again when he recorded “Embraceable You” with his friend Charlie Parker. Once again, his name wasn’t on the album — nor did he ever receive any royalties.

The jazz world had all but forgotten him until 1984, when famed jazz station WBGO in Newark invited him to perform on the air. Next came a three-night engagement for Scott, who was then 60 years old. Word began to spread among his fans: Not only was he still alive, he was better than ever. In 1992, Warner Brothers released Scott’s album All the Way, which was nominated for a Grammy. Since then, he has recorded eight more critically acclaimed albums. At the age of 78, he performs frequently, touring Europe and Asia.

Blending concert footage, rare photos and candid interviews with Scott, his family and his colleagues, Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew is a moving testament to one of the most distinctive vocalists of our time and his lifelong attempt to reunite his family and find solace through his art — a bittersweet story as unforgettable as the music he continues to make after all these years.

The Filmmakers

  1. Matthew BuzzellDirector
  2. Brian GerberProducer