Soul music great Sharon Jones dies at age 60

(November 18, 2016) 2016 can officially end as far as we’re concerned. It has brought too many deaths, too many sad endings much too soon. Tonight, we are extremely sad to inform SoulTrackers of the death of one of the great soul singers of our time, Sharon Jones, at age 60. Jones had been diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

Everything about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings simply seemed all wrong, but that's what makes it all right.  In an era dominated by sound-alike, synth-heavy hip-hop, SJ&TDK's created a unique, funky brand of retro Southern Soul that was absolutely infectious, working beautifully on its own merit and not just as a nostalgia piece.

(November 18, 2016) 2016 can officially end as far as we’re concerned. It has brought too many deaths, too many sad endings much too soon. Tonight, we are extremely sad to inform SoulTrackers of the death of one of the great soul singers of our time, Sharon Jones, at age 60. Jones had been diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

Everything about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings simply seemed all wrong, but that's what makes it all right.  In an era dominated by sound-alike, synth-heavy hip-hop, SJ&TDK's created a unique, funky brand of retro Southern Soul that was absolutely infectious, working beautifully on its own merit and not just as a nostalgia piece.

Sharon Jones was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1956, and it is more than coincidence that she came from the hometown of James Brown.  From her church singing background, she developed a gritty, emotive, soulful singing style that at times sounded like a female version of Brown.  She spent most of her career fronting a number of local funk bands and as a session vocalist (sometimes under the name Miss Lafaye) before signing a recording contract with the funk and soul Desco label in the 90s, recording a number of 45s (yes 45s!) that garnered for her an underground following in the US and an even bigger following in Europe.  Upon Desco's demise in the late 90s, she signed with the similar Daptone Records and began working with that label's house group, the Dap-Kings.

The Dap-Kings were formed from two of Desco's bands, the Soul Providers and the Mighty Imperials, and they have served as the back up band for all the Daptone singers, but most notably Jones. Consisting of Homer "Funky-Foot" Steinweiss (Drums), Binky Griptite (Guitar), Boogaloo Velez (Conga), David Guy (Trumpet), Bosco "Bass" Mann (Bass, Piano, Vibes, Tambourine), Neal Sugarman (Tenor Saxophone), Ed Michaels (Baritone Saxophone) and Tom Brenneck (Guitar, Piano), the group is a sort of modern-day Booker T & the MGs, providing a tight, funky backdrop for Jones' powerful vocals and Bosco Mann's fine, soulful compositions.

In 2002, Jones and the Dap-Kings released Dap-Dipping with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, a fantastic, raw funk-soul album that solidified Jones' status among soul purists and landed her the label "The Queen of Funk" in the U.K.

Following a couple years of regular international touring, the act went back to the studio to put together a second album, Naturally, which was released in 2005.  More anticipated than its predecessor, Naturally received advance attention in many corners, and it helped that the first single released from the disc, "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?" sounded like a #1 soul hit, circa 1972. A great Mann composition, "How Long" had the feel of an instant classic and was a near perfect Summer record.  The rest of the album sounded has a similar Memphis-style retro feel, from the JB-like "My Man Is A Mean Man" and "Your Thing Is A Drag," to the bluesy ballads "Standing In Your Love" and "All Over Again" to the almost unrecognizable take on Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land,"  Start to finish, Naturally was a gem for lovers of 70s Southern soul, clearly utilizing the style of that era, but not sounding a bit tired or derivative.  And the performance by both Jones and the Dap-Kings was top rate.

Two years after Naturally, the band returned with 100 Days and 100 Nights, their biggest release yet. It sold over 150,000 units worldwide and elevated Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings to top billing at shows around the world. In April 2010, the group released I Learned the Hard Way, which followed the same basic playbook as the group's previous three albums, and continued to establish a unique role for the group in the music world.

Jones continued to wow audiences both on record and in concert. A typical Sharon Jones audience was a virtual United Nations in its diversity, and she rarely failed to wow them. Her death at such an early age is a huge loss for music lovers around the world. But, while we mourn, we will be popping on her music with a glass of wine tonight, and will be celebrating her unique greatness. God bless you, Sharon Jones.

by Chris Rizik

 
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Featured Album - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

Leave a comment!