started making funk-threaded soul music together in the 1960s. Few devotedly retro acts are as convincing. Few singers as skilled as
at stuffing notes with ache and meaning would be willing to invest in a sound so fully occupied by the likes of
years, too. But what
brings to the funkified table has legs of its own -- eight of them, to be exact -- and they belong to
, like James Brown
, was born in Augusta, Georgia; there she sang in her church choir, and from fellow parishioners picked up the kind of back-patting she needed to convince her to go mainstream. As a teenager, she moved with her family to Brooklyn, where she immersed herself in 1970s disco and funk with an eye toward cutting a record of her own. Instead, studios came calling and with them steady work -- by her twenties, Jones
was turning in backup vocals for gospel, soul, disco, and blues artists, most of it uncredited. In the '80s, however, Jones
' sound was deemed unfashionable, and instead of pushing ahead with her soul diva's dream she went back to church singing. She also took a job as a corrections officer at New York's Rikers Island.
It wouldn't be until 1996 that Desco Records would rediscover Jones
' sweat-basted, lived-in talent. With that label's house band, the Soul Providers
released several singles in the late '90s; their warmth and genuineness propelled the act across the Atlantic, and Jones
picked up a moniker -- the queen of funk -- that stuck. Jones
released her first full-length with the Dap-Kings
, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
, after signing with Daptone Records in 2002. Years of touring behind it, as well as cutting singles with other artists (including Greyboy
) ensued. In 2005, Jones
re-teamed with the Dap-Kings
for the winking groovefest that is Naturally
, following it up two years later with 100 Days, 100 Nights. Jones
also had a bit part in The Great Debaters
as the singer Lila. A new studio effort, I Learned the Hard Way, appeared in 2010.
In 2013, Jones
revealed that she had been diagnosed with cancer -- initially in the bile ducts, and later advanced to stage two pancreatic cancer -- but she continued to perform as often as her therapy schedule would permit, sometimes appearing on-stage with a bald head after chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out. In late 2013, Jones
was well enough to complete work on the next Dap-Kings
album, and Give the People What they Want appeared in January 2014. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple premiered a film about the vocalist, Miss Sharon Jones!
, at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival; Jones
was in attendance for the debut screening, and revealed that her cancer had returned, but defiantly added, "I'm gonna keep fighting, we got a long way to go." Fittingly, the determined Jones
and the Dap-Kings
returned in October 2015 with a collection of Christmas and Hanukkah tunes titled It's a Holiday Soul Party.