Sharon Jones, the Grammy-nominated soul and funk singer who led the Dap-Kings, died Friday after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 60.
We are deeply saddened to announce Sharon Jones passed away today. More details at https://t.co/MAag8tYrE3
– Sharon Jones (@sharonjones) November 19, 2016
Jones “was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts during this difficult time,” a statement posted to the group’s website said.
Jones brought a fiery intensity to the sounds of RB and soul that she grew up with in South Carolina. She realized as a child she was destined to become a singer after performing in her church Christmas play.
“I knew that I was going to be a singer. God had blessed me with a gift,” Jones told NPR’s Terry Gross in July.
Jones sharpened her chops during the 1970s by singing with church and wedding ensembles, which helped pay her bills, but didn’t elevate her in the industry.
Her first big break came in 1996, as a backing singer for soul singer Lee Fields. Prior to that, Jones worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island in New York, where her family had moved when she was a child.
Jones’ powerful voice and connection to the attitude and style of the ’60s and ’70s impressed the owners of Brooklyn-based Desco Records, who would release multiple recordings featuring Jones, including the hit “Switchblade.”
Jones followed Desco owner Gabriel Roth to newly founded Daptone Records in 2000, where she led the soul/funk revival group, the Dap-Kings, which featured Roth on bass. Their first album, ” Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings,” was released in 2002 to wide acclaim.
“What If We all Stopped Paying Taxes,” became an anti-Iraq War anthem ahead of the 2002 election.
Jones and the Dap-Kings released seven albums, including “100 Days, 100 Nights,” “I Learned the Hard Way,” and “Give The People What They Want,” which was nominated for a Grammy in 2014. The Dap-Kings’ most recent release was 2015’s “It’s a Holiday Soul Party.”
The group’s recordings and performances carried a punch, and earned Jones a reputation as a ” female James Brown.”
Jones was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, but went into remission after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. She was quick to resume touring, but the cancer returned in 2015.
“I just started crying,” Jones told Rolling Stone after her first diagnosis. “All kinds of thoughts went through my head because I figured that I was going to die.”
Jones was featured in the 2016 documentary, ” Miss Sharon Jones! ” which explored her musical career and her illness. The film spotlighted Jones’ thundering anthem, “I’m Still Here.”
“Doing the film was also my therapy, and I knew that it would help someone out there with cancer, or going through it, as long as I inspired someone,” Jones said on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” “That’s where my health came from, my energy came from, knowing my fans was out there and I’m getting back to them, and I wanted them to see what I’m going through.”
Jones is survived by four siblings. The statement posted to her website encouraged fans to donate to these organizations in lieu of sending flowers:
The Lustgarten Foundation
James Brown Family Foundation
Little Kids Rock
Arrangements for a memorial service were incomplete.
The fabulous Sharon Jones has passed tonight she her band The DapKings made great music together she sang her butt off. Condolences RIP
– Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) November 19, 2016
My deepest condolences 2 the family of @sharonjones. She was the real deal in this industry. 2016 you’ve been awful pic.twitter.com/9QsCbwqs0y
– Chaka Khan (@ChakaKhan) November 19, 2016
Rest In Peace to the beautiful black queen Sharon Jones pic.twitter.com/SUftVhDSYt
– Leon Bridges (@leonbridges) November 19, 2016