Sharon Jones has died after having lived for so long, so heroically with pancreatic cancer. According to her publicist, “She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.”
Originally from Augusta, Georgia, Jones moved with her family to Brooklyn, New York, when she was a young girl. She attended Brooklyn College. Though she pursued a music career early on, it took a while to stick. She made her living for a while as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo, before she got a call to back up funk legend Lee Fields on a recording. The connections she made in that session ultimately led to the formation of Desco Records, then the Dap Kings and Daptone Records.
Daptone Records’ inaugural release was a full-length album by Sharon Jones, but it was the 2002 release, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings which earned Jones and the Dap Kings a good deal of attention. She and the Dap Kings recorded seven albums together and were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2014 for Give the People What They Want.
Jones’ live performances, meanwhile, were the stuff of magic. Frequently dressed in a fringe and sequins, she shook it like Tina Turner and owned the stage like James Brown. Nothing made you feel as good as a Sharon Jones show, with the Dap Kings working the rhythm in the background and Jones’ powerful voice up front. She sang like she was talking to you, imploring you to listen.
The music Jones made was singular unto herself.
Frequently called the female James Brown, she commanded a presence that was bigger than that offshoot moniker depicted. She was her own performer, her own artist. The deep, horn-driven funk and soul her band produced was reminiscent of a bygone era at the same instant as shooting us forward in time.
Jones was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2013, a diagnosis that later became pancreatic cancer. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and continued to release albums and perform. She was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama and was the subject of a 2015 documentary film directed by Barbara Kopple, titled Miss Sharon Jones.
The note form her publicist last night ended by stating,
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following organizations:
May she rest in peace.