R.I.P. Brenda Jones of The Jones Girls

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    Update: We have received a note from Shirley Jones with information on a planned celebration of the life of Brenda Jones:

    Friday May 19th, 7:00 pm
    Bert’s Warehouse
    2739 Russell St., Detroit, Michigan

    “Please join Shirley Jones for a special evening of love, joy and good times among family and friends of The Jones Girls as we celebrate the life and times of Brenda Jones. In lieu of flower, to support this celebration we ask that you send donations to Shirley’s PayPal account: Shihub22@bellsouth.net

     

    Update: We have received a note from Shirley Jones with information on a planned celebration of the life of Brenda Jones:

    Friday May 19th, 7:00 pm
    Bert’s Warehouse
    2739 Russell St., Detroit, Michigan

    “Please join Shirley Jones for a special evening of love, joy and good times among family and friends of The Jones Girls as we celebrate the life and times of Brenda Jones. In lieu of flower, to support this celebration we ask that you send donations to Shirley’s PayPal account: Shihub22@bellsouth.net

     

    (April 4, 2017) If one of the missions of Soul Tracks has been to highlight great artists who haven't received their "props," we'd need to look no further than The Jones Girls, a trio of sisters from Detroit. For during a half decade between 1979 and 1984, Shirley, Valorie and Brenda Jones created some of the most glorious Soul music around. Today we are devastated to give SoulTrackers the news that Brenda Jones has died after being hit by a car. The terrible news was posted on the Facebook page of Shirley Jones. 

    Born and raised in Detroit in a gospel singing family, the Jones Girls spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis. Their attempts to break through as a singing group on a number of smaller labels (including a brief stint at Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label) failed, and they seemed destined to spend their careers harmonizing behind bigger artists. However, while serving as Diana Ross's backing group during a mid-70s tour, the girls were "discovered" by Kenny Gamble and were signed to Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records.

    They came out smoking on PIR with their eponymous debut album and the infectious dance single "You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else," which stormed the pop, soul and dance charts. They followed with the beautiful ballad, "We're A Melody," a prototypical Philly song with sophisticated arrangements wrapped around their wonderful harmonies. 

    Both drop dead gorgeous and talented, the Jones Girls were individually accomplished singers; but together, their voices were absolutely heavenly. And at PIR they found the perfect match in the melodic writing and lush production that Gamble & Huff and Dexter Wansel/Cynthia Biggs provided them. Their second and third PIR albums were gems. At Peace With Woman and Get As Much Love As You Can featured a number of now classic cuts, including the club favorite "Nights Over Egypt," the sassy "I Just Love the Man" and a timeless cover of the Stylistics' "Children of the Night." It was during this period that I saw them perform live at Michigan State University, as the opening act for The Commodores, and I was hooked.

    The Jones Girls left Philadelphia International for RCA Records in 1984, and couldn't recapture the magic. They retired the group in 1985 and lead singer Shirley Jones went solo, returning to PIR in 1986 for Always In The Mood and its #1 hit, "Do You Get Enough Love." She continued to record sporadically over the next decade, and the group reunited from time to time for special concerts and issued a 1992 reunion album, Coming Back, in Europe (reissued in 2014).

    The sisters spent much of the next decade raising their children, occasionally reuniting for shows (particularly in Europe) and providing guest vocal help to other artists.  They released Best of the Jones Girls in 2000, a great sampler of their work on PIR and an essential purchase for lovers of sophisticated, well orchestrated soul music. Sadly, sister Valorie died the next year.

    Brenda Jones ultimately moved to Atlanta, where she sang frequently with her four-piece band, performing both Jazz and R&B numbers, including several Jones Girls tunes.  She later moved to New York after her children were grown, to have a more active performing and recording schedule.

    Despite their relatively brief recording period on PIR, the Jones Girls' exquisite harmonies and engaging stage presence, combined with the uniformly excellent songs they received, created a powerful musical legacy that continues into the 21st century. Brenda Jones was a big part of that magic, and she will be terribly missed.

    By Chris Rizik

    Thanks to Gary Van den Bussche for letting us know

     
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