It was sad to hear the news over the weekend, that Sharon Jones has died. She was 60. She died of pancreatic cancer. Jones didn’t find anything resembling fame – or much of a career – until she was 40. Her 2002 debut full-length album, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings was my introduction to her – and still my favourite; an introduction too to a great backing unit (The Dap-Kings would back a few other artists, including Amy Winehouse and front up for some of their own records too). In particular Jones’ cover of Janet Jackson’s What Have You Done For Me Lately? made me know that this was not just a novelty-cover and that she wasn’t just some press-hyped “retro soul” act. She had more to give than that. She had more grit. More get-up. More go.
I saw Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings one time. And it was great. You didn’t need to be a fan to be pulled in. Some of that was the great heat of the band but almost all of it was down to Jones – a kick-ass live performer. She had the voice – sure. But it was about her commitment to the performance, her love of the music and how infectious she made that.
I didn’t love every album she did – in fact I think she worked best as a live performer. Absolutely. To my knowledge there was never the kick-ass live double-album released by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. And that always seemed a shame. A crime. Now there’s a far bigger shame – we’ll never hear or see her strutting her stuff on the stage. She acted like she lived there – in and for those moments. She was a wonderfully energetic performer.
Most of the “retro soul” acts leave me cold. They can’t sing (Charles Bradley) or even when they can (Lee Fields) it feels futile, redundant. Not ever with Sharon Jones. She was on the money.
We’ll miss her. She was a great talent.
R.I.P. Sharon Jones