Sharon Jones, Retro Soul Singer, Dies
Sharon Jones, who, with her band the Dap-Kings, helped bring the sounds of '60s soul into the 21st century, has died. She was 60 years old.
"We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer," read a statement on her website. "She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings."
Jones was the subject of Barbara Kopple's 2015 documentary, Miss Sharon Jones! The movie focused on her fight with cancer from shortly after the diagnosis in 2013 until her return to the stage on Feb. 6, 2014 at the New York's Beacon Theatre, only five weeks after she finished chemotherapy.
Born in Augusta, Ga., in 1956, Jones' family moved to New York City, and she learned to sing in church. But for all her vocal abilities, she was never able to get a record deal because, as she said, she was repeatedly told that she was “too old, too fat, too short and too black.” Instead, she worked odd jobs, including a stint as a corrections officer on Rikers Island, while singing in wedding bands and at sessions.
Her break finally arrived in 1996, when she booked a session with Brooklyn-based bassist/producer Gabriel Roth, who was suitably impressed and began using her more often. By 2001, Roth formed Daptone Records and signed Jones, building a band around her that they called the Dap-Kings. A year later, her debut, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, was the first LP on the label. Over the next 14 years, they released five more studio albums, with the last being 2015's It's a Holiday Soul Party.
And while her records earned good reviews and sold respectably, it was as onstage where Jones shined. She was a tireless performer, rarely standing still throughout her set and dancing like a cross between Tina Turner and James Brown, the latter of whom her mother knew. Even throughout her illness, she performed as frequently as possible at festivals and theaters, up through this past summer's stint as an opening act for Hall & Oates.
The video above is from that first show at the Beacon, and, as you can see, she was not going to let her condition get the best of her.
“I’ve always been a fighter,” Jones told us in January 2014. “I’ve never been a follower. It’s always got to be who I am. I think that’s one of the reasons I succeeded.”
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