Today on May 4 we celebrate the birthday of soul icon Sharon Jones. Today she would have turned 64 years old. Unfortunately, she left us much too soon. On November 18, 2016, almost 4 years ago now, the singer died of cancer. Sharon Lafaye Jones, as her full name was, found her fame only after she turned forty. Before she was discovered at 40, she had held a number of jobs, including that of a prison guard in the infamous prison on Riker’s Island belonging to the New York City department of correction. Sharon sang in bands that performed at parties, weddings and other social gatherings. She was already past her twenties and the story goes of a producer who scoffed at her by telling her that she was “too old, too small, too fat and too black” to work as a singer.
In 1996, however, her lucky dime finally fell in the right direction. Sharon was asked to sing as background singers on a recording of ‘Soul Providers’, with the then band of soul singer Lee Fields. The other two hired backing singers didn’t show up, and Sharon suggested she’d overdub all the voices herself. One of those present was Bosco Mann, producer and guitarist of what would later become the Dap Kings. On this predecessor of Daptone records, Desco, Sharon released a number of singles, but the big fame came when Bosco Mann founded the Daptone label along with saxophonist and producer Neal Sugarman. Sugarman and Bosco Mann formed the new band the Dap Kings from members of the Soul Providers and the Mighty Imperials.
With Sharon as frontwoman, they grew into a worldwide soul sensation. Daptone became synonymous with true soul music and also co-produced Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ with producer Mark Ronson. Sadly, Sharon’s career didn’t last that long. Soul music never saw such a tightly, interlocked playing band, never before has there been so much energy on stage. In 2010, cancer was first diagnosed with Sharon. She was treated and fought back to the stage like a lioness. Her struggles with the disease, her comeback and the return of the disease are the subject of a very impressive documentary ‘Miss Sharon Jones’, highly recommended for every music lover.
So today we celebrate the life of Sharon Jones. To get as close to Sharon as possible, and to know as much as possible why Sharon Jones was the phenomenon she was, Maxazine interviewed Neal Sugarman, the founder of Daptone Records and the man who lived with her very closely on and off the stage for 20 years. Listen to the audio interview with Neal Sugarman and watch the amazing performance of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings in a broadcast of the German Rockpalast. In addition, together with Neal Sugarman, we have created a Spotify playlist for people who are curious about the music of Sharon, with what we think are the essential tracks to get to know the music of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Congratulations Sharon!