Portland’s Songbird

She’s like a plate of your favorite home-cooked meal, served pipin’ hot — good, satisfying and leaves you anticipating more. And when she steps on stage, you know to buckle up and get ready because it’s going to be a ride!

Like many great Black singers she got her start singing in church and grew up in a house where music was always played, heard or sung. Her vocal ability transcends genres and her personality cannot be contained. She’s opened for Frankie Vallie, The Four Tops and a host of others. By the way, how many people do you know to appear on Star Search and win? She could have moved anywhere in the world, but she didn’t. She stayed right here in HER hometown and for that, we are grateful.

Introducing Portland’s own songbird, Ms. Shirley Nanette!

Ms. Shirley Nanette…how are you?

Fine, thank you… and blessed.

Congratulations on your induction into the Jazz Society of Oregon’s Hall of Fame! 2013 has been eventful for you. Literally, 2 months after your induction, you had brain surgery for an aneurysm that did not rupture. Like the old folks say, “Look at God” 🙂 You can now add miracle to your list of accolades!

Yes I can… proudly.

What does this mean to you and does it sound familiar, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life?”

Each day that one awakens to realize they’re still here, is a new beginning that God has blessed you with in spite of yourself, and a new journey that you have never had before.

You were born and raised right here in the City of Portland–so many people know and love you. I’m interested to know, what schools did you attend? And why did you decide to stay in Portland?

I attended Holiday, Elliott, Boise, Jefferson, Washington, & Girls Poly. I had two children and my Mom, and they needed me here.

You started singing at the age of seven, is that right? How was this talent uncovered? And how does it feel to know that you are biologically related to the late, great Bessie Smith?

Yes. Well I always sang… and so did my Mom, we use to sing together and watch musicals … I always had a very musical family… My Grandfather on my Mother’s side was a cousin to Bessie Smith, Yes it feels great to know that this is part of my DNA.

You have a genuine quality about you–you go beyond just connecting with an audience, you actually kick it! Where does all this energy come from?

I have always been a people person and enjoy connecting with the people I sing to & meet, for me it personal, in that it’s a wonderful to be the real me, and I’m grateful that they respond to me the same way, with love and respect. It’s who I am.

Now, you know there is a little Shirley Nanette running around here? For years folks thought Alonda Johnson was your daughter and didn’t believe her when she informed them she wasn’t! What was it like when you finally got a chance to meet her? Do you see the striking resemblance?

Oh yes! When I first met Alonda I was awestruck… I walked into a PCC Community Fair one day, and as soon I as I walked -in I saw this child and froze… saying to her, “you look Just like me!!!” I had heard about this young lady from numerous people, even my daughter, who asked me did I have another child… LOL. You know people are always saying you look like someone, and then you see the person and you look nothing alike. Well this was incredible! Alonda looked just like I did when I was her age at that time, and still looks like she’s mine.

Are you single?


Visit Shirley’s website at shirleynanette.com and go check her out!



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