High Energy Soul Singer Sharon Jones Dies at 60

Sharon Jones Wakarusa 2011
Sharon Jones at Wakarusa 2011. Photos by Benjamin Landsman

Soul Singer Sharon Jones, known for her powerful voice and kinetic stage presence, passed away on Friday at age 60, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by members of the Dap-Kings and loved ones, according to her publicist.

Cancer did not slow down Ms. Jones, who was first diagnosed in 2013 and continued recording or touring while undergoing chemotherapy. A documentary on her life, MISS SHARON JONES! was released this summer to great acclaim.

Sharon Jones found success in her 40s, after being rebuffed by major labels who considered her, “too short, too fat, too black and too old,” as recounted in “I’m Still Here,” released this summer. The song details her life as she moved from the segregated south to New York City and persistence in achieving her goals. While performing with a wedding band Good n Plenty, she met producer/songwriter Gabriel Roth and joined funk label Daptone Records in Brooklyn, led the Dap-Kings on stage and gave high energy performances for audiences since 2002. The group won a 2015 Grammy for Best R&B Album for Give the People What They Want and recorded six albums on the Daptone label.

Born in Augusta, GA, her mother was forced to give birth in a storage room at a hospital in the segregated Jim Crow south. Jones relocated to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn in 1960, attended Brooklyn College and turned her focus to music. She collaborated in her career with Lou Reed, Phish, Michael Bublé and David Byrne, among many others. Radiation and chemotherapy did not slow down Ms. Jones, “I need to dance onstage, I don’t want something that makes me bedridden. I want to live my life to the fullest.”