Sharon Jones, the incendiary soul singer who propelled to stardom at an age when most musicians had either hit the big time or accepted the club circuit, has died.
The artist’s albums with her backing band the Dap-Kings paved the way for a soul renaissance that influenced singers including Amy Winehouse and Adele.
Jones’ death occurred Friday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, and was announced by her longtime publicist, Judy Miller Silverman. The singer died at a Cooperstown, N.Y., hospital surrounded by the Dap-Kings. She was 60.
“I started late, and I suppose I only got a few more years. So I want to get it in while I can, before I go away from here,” she told the Los Angeles Times’ Steven Zeitchik in August while promoting “Miss Sharon Jones!” a documentary of her life.
At the time, the singer was suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, but retained a sense of mission: “I really would like to sell millions of records. I don’t know why I haven’t,” she said.
She’s not alone.
With a voice typified by a caught-in-the-moment spirit that seemed to revel in whatever emotion she was conveying, Jones delivered dusty rhythm & blues that drew from electrified, sanctified soul and was fueled by the young-gun energy of backing band the Dap-Kings.
Her 2014 album “Give the People What They Want” was nominated for a Grammy in the R&B album category. Excluding a 2015 Christmas release, it was her last studio album.
Those later albums were built on a foundation that started with her first album with the Dap-Kings in 2002. Called “Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings,” it set a tone for a new century of soul music. That it arrived from a singer who had spent much of her adult life as either a prison guard or security guard made for a great back story.
But a good story can take one only so far. Her voice carried her further. By the time she hit her fourth studio album in 2010, “I Learned the Hard Way,” Jones and band had become bona fide stars. The album debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard top 200, and peaked at No. 6 on the hip-hop/R&B album chart. That’s no small feat considering that most of the competition was half her age.
On Twitter, a range of artists lined up to pay their respects, confirming the depth of her influence.
“My deepest condolences 2 the family of @sharonjones. She was the real deal in this industry. 2016 you’ve been awful,” wrote Chaka Khan on the social media site.
The rising soul singer Leon Bridges wrote, simply, “Rest in peace to the beautiful Black Queen Sharon Jones.”
Singer and guitarist Annie Clark, who records as St. Vincent, wrote, “Sharon Jones. Thank you for everything.”
And singer Haley Williams of the rock band Paramour wrote, “My heart is broken. This year is so sad. Sharon Jones, thx for inspiring me for so long. Your voice/energy will echo in my heart forever.”