Back in 2010, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were on the verge of releasing their fourth studio album I Learned the Hard Way when Jones spoke to this magazine about her life and work up to that point. She remembered the music executive who turned her away early on, saying, “You don’t have the look — you’re too dark-skinned, you should use something to lighten your skin, and lose a couple of pounds.” It was enough to slow her down for a few years, but not stop her completely.
And it wouldn’t stop her from performing and inspiring the “Daptone sound” of artists like Amy Winehouse, and it didn’t stop her even when pancreatic cancer took her health, or when treatment took her hair (she took to the stage bald thereafter). And now, as tributes to Miss Jones pour in from across the web, it behooves all of us who feel a little defeated at this present moment to sit up and pay attention. Sharon Jones was resilient, determined, and incredibly talented. Above, watch Sharon at the Montreal Jazz Festival this past summer, where at one point she sings, “I don’t know if this will be my last show.”
Miss Jones and Mr. Nelson
The Purple One became a big fan of Sharon’s brand of funk and soul after he saw her and the Dap-Kings at Austin’s SXSW festival. He later played with the band often, including this set in Paris (he arrives around 6:40). Apparently he arrived in suitable Prince fashion: by bike. Jones told EW she had no idea he was going to join her onstage at all, and he only left as early as he did because he dropped his pick.
And Speaking of SXSW …
Sharon Jones’s mother knew James Brown when the two of them were kids in Georgia, and Jones and her siblings used to sing along to the Soul Man’s songs as children. So this beautiful intro to Jones’s show at 2010’s SXSW is a perfect and perfectly funky one, in the James Brown style. Watch as “our much celebrated sister who’s about to get her due,” gets up and proves she’s earned it. And could she wear a dress, or what?
This Land Is Your Land
This live performance of Woodie Guthrie’s classic progressive protest song is given a punchy funk twist by the Dap-Kings here at a live performance in Belgium. An essential song made more essential by recent events.
Miss Sharon Jones!
The documentary about Sharon’s life, work, and illness opened in the summer, and it seems especially poignant now. The doc also contains a lot of live footage of Jones performing, perhaps some of the last live performances of hers caught on film. During the film’s premiere at TIFF last year, Jones announced that she was still battling the cancer that would eventually take her life. R.I.P., Sharon. Thank you for everything.