RSU Radio Remembers Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones was nothing short of a queen. She was  referred to as the female James Brown. It is a reputation that was not earned overnight. Sharon began her singing career in the same place many African American performers started their journeys; church.

She came to the music scene from humble beginnings. Like so many artists, Jones had to pursue music as a supplemental career. Due to the absence of a solo singing contract, for years her primary job was working as a corrections officer at Rikers Island, as well as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank.   She sounds tough, right?  That’s because she was.

Jones’ road to fame was long. She received her first significant music breakthrough in 1996.  A solid 26 years from the talent shows she started in the early 70’s. She was one of three singers who received a call to attend a recording session hosted by Gabriel Roth and Phillip Lehman. Roth and Lehman are the owners of the French record Label Pure Records which would back the development of their new Brooklyn label; Desco records. Impressed with Jones’ performance they kept her in mind when it was time to launch a new label that would piggyback on the success of Desco.  Roth and Lehman launched Daptone records, and this is the label that released Jones’ first full-length album; a with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

 The Dap Kings was formed from the remnants of Soul Providers and the Mighty Imperials. This small change in fortune would launch Jones into the spotlight as a talented funk and soul artist.  She voiced her commitment to Daptone records saying that it was a label that provided artistic freedom and demonstrated a strong commitment to the band.  Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings went on to release 6 more albums.

It would seem that Sharon Jones was a late blooming black Cinderella.  It would appear that although her journey was long it ended happily ever after with the inclusion of six full-length albums, a grammy nomination, and a small role in the major motion picture The Great Debaters, which starred Denzel Washington and Forrest Whittaker.


However, her story continued as it began with a strong, determined woman  patiently fighting for her place in the world. In the height of her success, Jones was diagnosed with bile duct cancer which would later be determined to be pancreatic cancer in 2013. The diagnosis delayed the release of the band’s fifth studio album; Give the People What They Want. Jones underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and the treatment caused her to lose all of her hair. But Jones returned with a bold vengeance.  She chose to perform her live shows bald and without shame. She proved herself to be as tough as she was in the days when she was a corrections officer and armored car guard.  Jones continued to make music and went on to release her final album to date; It’s a Holiday Soul Party.

 With the courage and grace of queen, the talent of James Brown, and the determination of a warrior Sharon Jones was nothing short of spectacular as an artist and as a woman.  Listeners would do well to absorb the encouragement of her story, and enjoy the manifestations of her perseverance.

Friday November 18th, 2016  Sharon Jones passed away. She went out in her purpose; making music. After suffering two strokes the Queen was unable to sing, yet again, she showed her true character in her final moments. Although unable to sing, Sharon hummed her way into her resting place of power. Rest in Power Queen.  We can only hope to come close to becoming the graceful warrior you are.