Sharon Jones, Singer and Soul-Funk Bandleader, Dies at 60

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings perform at opening night of Celebrate Brooklyn! in New York City on June 8. (Al Pereira/Wire Image via Getty Images)

Sharon Jones, the vocalist and leader of the soul-funk revival band Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, has died following a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer, her band announced Friday. According to a statement from her publicist, the singer was surrounded by loved ones, including her bandmates.

Born in South Carolina in 1956, Jones grew up in Brooklyn, where she would later be instrumental in the independent label Daptone Records. Though she grew up singing gospel music in church, Jones first career breakthrough didn't arrive until age 40, after she appeared as a session backing vocalist on a record by funk legend Lee Fields.

Sharon Jones serenades a fan pulled up from the audience at the 2008 Outside Lands Festival.
Sharon Jones serenades a fan pulled up from the audience at the 2008 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco. (Gabe Meline)

As Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, she released six full-length records (among other singles and compilations) between 2002 and 2014 -- including 2014's Grammy-nominated Give the People What They Want. During that time the band came to be regarded as leaders at the forefront of a soul-funk revivalist movement: a wave of artists who sought to perform and record soul, funk and blues music as it was performed and recorded at its peak in the 1960s and early '70s.

Jones was diagnosed with Stage II pancreatic cancer in June of 2013; after undergoing extensive chemotherapy and surgery, she returned to performing in 2014. The documentary Miss Sharon Jones!, released earlier this year, follows the singer throughout the seven months following her diagnosis.  In July of 2016, Jones told NPR that the cancer had returned, but she was still determined to perform.

"This cancer is here, and I have to take the chemo," she said, "but I want to perform. I just want to be able to get onstage and move."

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In lieu of flowers, a message posted to the band's website asks that fans donate to nonprofit organizations the Lustgarten Foundation, the James Brown Family Foundation,  or Little Kids Rock.

 

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