A Queen Among Kings
Sharon Jones’ Soul Was Surpassed Only By Her Spirit
by OLIVER WANG
The first time I ever saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform was circa 2002 at the Elbo Room, a tiny venue in San Francisco’s Mission District. If you’ve ever been there, you know the Elbo Room doesn’t need many bodies to pack the floor, and with the Dap-Kings crowding the diminutive stage, the full intensity of their act filled the space from practically the first note. I was already familiar with the group through its early records, but hadn’t fully appreciated how much power Jones could pack into her stout, 5-foot frame as she sang, sweated, stamped, strutted, slayed.
Jones, who passed away last week after a long, public battle with pancreatic cancer, enjoyed one of the great second acts of American pop music history, one whose countless retellings never seems to diminish its wonder. She was born in Augusta, Ga., in the mid-1950s, which made her just a little too young to have made a go at a soul career in the heyday of the 1960s and early ’70s. The closest she got was at age 17, singing backup on tour with Long Island R&B girl group The Magic Touch. Fast forward 20 years and Jones was working as a corrections officer out of Rikers Island prison while moonlighting as a wedding singer on the weekends.