Ah, Sharon…

Sharon Lafaye Jones: 4 May 1956 – 18 November 2016

I had a couple of posts ready to publish, including a blogging award nomination…but then, I saw this headline. So, in lieu of what I was planning on posting, here’s my little tribute to the late, great Sharon Jones, lead singer of the soul and funk band which had her name at the head of its title: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. She battled pancreatic cancer for a number of years, finally succumbing to the disease today at the age of 60. From the New York Times:

Sharon Jones, the soul singer and powerful voice of the band the Dap-Kings, died on Friday of pancreatic cancer that had been in remission but returned last year. She was 60.

Ms. Jones’s death was confirmed by Judy Miller Silverman, her publicist. She said Ms. Jones was surrounded by members of the Dap-Kings and other loved ones when she died.

She continued performing throughout the summer, even while undergoing chemotherapy that she said caused neuropathy in her feet and legs and restricted her movements onstage. But Ms. Jones remained undeterred.

“Getting out on that stage, that’s my therapy,” Ms. Jones said in a New York Times interview published in July. “You have to look at life the way it is. No one knows how long I have. But I have the strength now, and I want to continue.”

The summer tour promoted “I’m Still Here,” a single with the Dap-Kings that detailed Ms. Jones’s birth in a brutally segregated South, a childhood in the burned-out Bronx, and a career hampered by record executives who considered her “too short, too fat, too black and too old.”

Ms. Jones was that rare music star who found fame in middle age, when she was in her 40s.

In addition to working as a correction officer at Rikers Island and an armed guard for Wells Fargo, Ms. Jones, who had grown up singing gospel in church choirs, initially dabbled in professional music as a session singer and the vocalist in a wedding band, Good N Plenty.

After meeting Gabriel Roth, the producer and songwriter also known as Bosco Mann, Ms. Jones made the leap from backup singer to main attraction. Desco Records released her debut 7-inch vinyl single, “Damn It’s Hot,” in 1996. She was 40.

With the encouragement and songwriting of Mr. Roth, who co-founded the Brooklyn soul and funk revival label Daptone Records and serves as the bandleader of the Dap-Kings, Ms. Jones’s full-length debut, “Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings,” came out in 2002. She would go on to release four more studio albums and two compilations on the small label, a point of pride for the fiercely independent Ms. Jones.

“A major label’s going to do what?” she said to Billboard last year. “I sing one or two songs, they give me a few million dollars, which they’re going to want back, and then the next thing you know, the next record don’t sell, and then they’re kicking me to the curb. With us, this is our label, this is our project.”

Sharon Lafaye Jones was born on May 4, 1956, in Augusta, Ga., though her family lived just across the border in North Augusta, S.C. In “Miss Sharon Jones!” the singer recalled that her mother had needed a cesarean section, but because of segregation in the Jim Crow south, she was not allowed in the hospital’s main unit and was instead relegated to a storage room.

After her parents separated, Ms. Jones, the youngest of six children, moved with her mother to New York and was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “But New York in 1960, no peace to be found,” she sang on “I’m Still Here.” “Segregation, drugs and violence was all around.”

She went on to attend Brooklyn College and acted in “Sister Salvation,” an Off-Broadway play, before turning her focus to music.

With her late start, Ms. Jones recorded and performed at an unrelenting pace, and in the last year and a half of her life she made two albums, opened two national tours for Hall & Oates, was featured in a television commercial for Lincoln (performing the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”) and starred in “Miss Sharon Jones!,” a documentary about her life.

The film traced her life from the diagnosis of Stage 2 pancreatic cancer in 2013 through her triumphant return to the stage in 2015. Ms. Jones is survived by four siblings, seven nieces and three nephews.

I saw her on The Colbert Report when she was promoting her album titled “I Learned the Hard Way,” and immediately bought it on CD. I absolutely loved her old-school style of recording and the sound evoked on her album, and the energy that she poured into her songs and on-stage performance were infectious. She idolized James Brown, and was called the female version of him due to her “roaring voice, frenetic energy, and gregarious personality.” She used music as a form of therapy for her cancer diagnosis, which was eventually classified as Stage 4 and metastasized to her lungs, liver, and lymph nodes – the pancreas is one of the lymphatic organs, from what I recall of med school and related biology and physiology courses.

Rest easy now, Sharon…you shall be missed. You join the pantheon of the greats – you deserve to be in their company, as you certainly earned it. Jimi, David, Prince, and many others await your presence…and give James a big-ass hug!

I’ll close with the three songs that I enjoyed the most, from the first album of hers that I bought. I’m definitely going to purchase the others before the month is over.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cindy knoke
    Nov 18, 2016 @ 23:01:30

    Whoa! She is phenomonal!

    • sepultura13
      Nov 18, 2016 @ 23:04:33

      She certainly was – I was saddened to hear of her passing! I would have liked to have seen her perform live, just once…at least I can still enjoy her music.
      😎

  2. Kate McClelland
    Nov 19, 2016 @ 06:16:21

    Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.

  3. Selina Stambi
    Nov 21, 2016 @ 18:05:38

    Hi Sepultra, I had never heard of Sharon Jones till I read your post. What an amazing woman. I went through chemo eight years ago and believe me, the only thing on my mind was my bed. Thank you for the very enlightening piece. A worthy tribute. 🙂

  4. sheldonk2014
    Nov 23, 2016 @ 18:16:23

    I just heard about this the other day
    Gwen Ifill just died too
    I believe from the same thing
    She was on pbs
    Sad,sad
    As always Sheldon

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