Singer dies following “heroic battle against pancreatic cancer”.
Sharon Jones, the fiery soul singer who spent decades in obscurity before becoming a Grammy-nominated soul and funk vocalist with her longtime backing band the Dap-Kings, died on Friday of pancreatic cancer. She was 60.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer,” the singer’s rep wrote in a statement. “She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.”
Jones was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer in 2013 but later went into remission nine months later. The cancer returned in 2015, with tumors spreading to her lung, liver and lymph nodes.
Sharon Lafaye Jones (May 4, 1956 – November 18, 2016) was an American soul and funk singer. She was the lead singer of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, a soul and funk band based in Brooklyn, New York. Jones experienced breakthrough success relatively late in life, releasing her first record when she was 40 years old. In 2014, Jones was nominated for her first Grammy, in the category Best R&B Album, for Give the People What They Want.
Jones was born in North Augusta, South Carolina, adjacent to Augusta, Georgia, to Ella Mae Price Jones and Charlie Jones. Jones is the youngest of six children; her siblings are Dora, Charles, Ike, Willa and Henry. Jones’s mother raised her deceased sister’s four children as well as her own children. She moved the family to New York City when Sharon was a young child. As children, she and her brothers would often imitate the singing and dancing of James Brown. Her mother happened to know Brown, who was also from Augusta.
A regular gospel singer in church, Jones often entered talent shows backed by local funk bands in the early 1970s. Session work then continued with backing singing, often credited to Lafaye Jones, but in the absence of any recording contract as a solo singer, she spent many years working as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank, until receiving a mid-life career break in 1996 after she appeared on a session backing the soul and deep funk legend Lee Fields.
Launched on the back of the popularity of Desco Records, Daptone Records’ first release was a full-length album by Sharon Jones. A new band, the Dap-Kings, was formed from the ashes of the Soul Providers and the Mighty Imperials. Some of the musicians went on to record for Lehman’s Soul Fire label, while some formed the Budos Band, an Afro-beat band. From the original Soul Providers, Roth (also known as Bosco Mann) on bass, guitarist and emcee Binky Griptite, percussionist Fernando Velez, trumpet player Anda Szilagyi and organist Earl Maxton were joined by original Mighty Imperials saxophonist Leon Michels and drummer Homer Steinweiss, plus Neal Sugarman from Sugarman 3, to form The Dap-Kings.