After a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer, Sharon Jones, lead singer of the funk/soul outfit the Dap-Kings, passed away on Friday. She was 60.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer,” Jones’ website reads. “She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.”
Jones, known for her powerful live shows described by Rolling Stone as “equal parts Baptist church revival, Saturday night juke joint and raucous 1970s Las Vegas revue,” first launched her career in the ‘70s, developing her own ferocious style that was largely shunned by the major studios at the time.
“I wasn’t what they was looking for,” she told the magazine in an interview earlier this year. “They just looked at me and they didn’t like what they saw: a short, black woman.”
She took a hiatus from music that included a stint as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo and a correction officer at Rikers Island. Her emergence on the national scene was long-delayed, but it did come, finally:
In 1996, Gabriel Roth, current Dap-Kings bandleader and head of now-defunct funk label Desco Records, worked with Jones’ then-fiancé and needed a back-up singer for a few tracks. Jones would record numerous songs as a back-up singer for the label and release “Damn It’s Hot,” her first song as a frontwoman at the age of 40.
Born on May 4, 1956, in Augusta, Georgia, Jones was the youngest of six children, and is survived by four of them. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013, just ahead of the release of the album “Give the People What They Want.” She underwent chemo, but while its debilitating effects have have kept a lesser performer away from the stage, Jones was not prepared to quit. From NPR:
Jones says that while extensive surgery and chemotherapy took a lot out of her, her desire to make music never faltered. After finishing chemo, recovering from the surgery and getting clean scans, she returned to the stage with The Dap-Kings in 2014.
The cancer has since returned, but Jones wants to continue making music. “This cancer is here, and I have to take the chemo,” she says, “but I want to perform. I just want to be able to get onstage and move.”
The group’s final album was a 2015 holiday compilation called “It’s a Holiday Soul Party.” Before her death, she’d expressed interest in recording a gospel album, citing her mantra: “I have cancer; cancer don’t have me.”