Cancer Takes Sharon Jones at Age 60

It is with heavy sadness that we must report the passing of Sharon Jones, who died on Friday, November 18th at age 60 after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded in Cooperstown, New York by her loved ones, including the members of her longtime band the Dap-Kings.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, Jones moved with her family to New York City when she was a young child. She got her start by singing gospel songs in church, and delved into session work as a backup singer from the ‘70s onward, but didn’t begin to achieve fame as an artist until a session doing background vocals for soul legend Lee Fields in 1996 caught the attention of Gabriel Roth and Philip Lehman, owners of a now-defunct soul/R&B label called Desco Records.

After Desco closed down in 2000, Roth founded Daptone Records with Neal Sugarman of the Sugarman 3. Many former members of Desco’s house band stayed on board and became the foundation of the Dap-Kings, the top-notch backing band for Sharon Jones, whose 2002 debut album Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings was also the first full-length album released by Daptone.

Becoming one of the most unlikely midlife career successes in popular music history, Jones and the Dap-Kings would go on to release five more albums, including a Christmas LP (2015’s It’s a Holiday Soul Party), numerous singles, a compilation album and the soundtrack to Miss Sharon Jones!, Barbara Kopple’s acclaimed 2015 documentary about the soul belter and her determined fight against cancer. They toured and thrilled large audiences the world over, made numerous TV appearances and helped bring about an old-school soul/R&B revival that continues to resonate.

In the end, the cancer got the best of her. But let us be thankful for the impact her spirit, talent and inspiring strength had on so many people.