Sharon Jones, 1956-2016: Beloved Soul Singer Dead at 60

Music News Sharon Jones

South Carolina-born soul singer Sharon Jones, the Grammy-nominated vocalist at the heart of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, died today after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 60 years old. According to a statement posted on Jones’ website, she passed while surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings. The full statement reads:

We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts during this difficult time.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following organizations:

The Lustgarten Foundation
James Brown Family Foundation
Little Kids Rock

Additional memorial details will follow soon.

Born in Augusta, Ga., and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a young Sharon Lafaye Jones and her brothers would frequently imitate the singing and dancing of James Brown. Jones sang only in church for much of her life, working as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and an armored car guard before finally getting her shot, backing soul legend Lee Fields as a session singer in 1996.

Jones and the Dap-Kings released Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings via the then-fledgling Daptone Records in 2002, quickly establishing themselves as essential listening for soul revivalists. They released three more albums during the Aughts—Naturally in 2005, 100 Days, 100 Nights in 2007, and I Learned the Hard Way in 2010—with many crediting Jones and her band with spearheading our modern-day funk and soul resurgence.

Jones was first diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2013, after which she underwent surgery before returning to touring with the Dap-Kings later that year. Her diagnosis was later changed to pancreatic cancer, and Jones refused to wear wigs while undergoing chemotherapy, choosing instead to perform bald. She and her band released their fifth album in 2014, Give the People What They Want, for which Jones received her first and only Grammy nomination.

A 2015 documentary titled Miss Sharon Jones! explored Jones’ battles with cancer and her relationship with the Dap-Kings. During a screening of the documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival, Jones revealed that her cancer had returned. “I’m gonna keep fighting,” the fearless singer said. “We got a long way to go.”

Revisit Paste’s moving 2014 interview with Jones here, and listen to the singer reading from Douglas Wolk’s James Brown’s Live at the Apollo (33 1/3) via the Paste Cloud below.

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