From Soul of a Woman, due November 17 on Daptone.
We were first turned on to Sharon Jones in 2007 when I (mistakenly, and which was debated at length in the comments) called Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black the best soul record in decades. Commenter “Matt” told me to go listen to Miss Jones and I’ve been forever in debt since.
I first saw Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shortly after that article posted. It was revelatory. In the era of beard-stroking indie rock was this band of crack musicians fronted by a firecracker of a performer who took their jobs as entertainer seriously. Deadly seriously, as it turns out.
Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and documented her fight against it, while trying to also return to her passion and career fronting the Dap Kings, in the film Miss Sharon Jones! It’s a careful, honest look at the struggle and triumphs of serious illness. Jones, who was the personification of energy and strength on the stage, struggles throughout the film with the physical, emotional and financial strains of her illness and shows her vulnerability throughout and fights her way back to the stage and the road shows that pay her bills–and the bills of her bandmates, road crew and label staff. To know how the story ends, despite where the film ends, is heartbreaking.
Daptone Records announced Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ final studio album, Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017. Just typing those words, “final studio album” makes me sad. I hate that we’ll never see her perform again and that she won’t be creating new music. It’s hard to embrace the adage that we should “not be sad that it’s over, but be happy that it happened” when such a talented and big hearted woman has been taken away. But I’ll do my best and I’ll dance in my living room with as much vigor as I can muster. It’s what she would have done.
Post-script: Another Daptone flame was snuffed out by cancer recently when Charles Bradley died on September 23, aged 68. He was a James Brown impersonator in his past and used that time as a sort of apprenticeship that made his own live shows absolutely spellbinding. Seeing the clips of Sharon Jones talking shop and dancing with him brought an actual tear to my eye. The world has a little less soul and a lot less heart in it now. Fuck cancer.