You could call singer Sharon Jones one of the last of a small and talented community of Soulful belters. The community just became smaller yesterday with cancer taking Jones away from us. She was 60 years old.
You know the type of belters I’m talking about. Koko Taylor is a name that comes to mind. Etta James, when she wanted to. Chaka Khan, who’s still with us. Mahalia, a singer who only needs a first name. Janis Joplin. And of course, Sharon Jones.
Like other great belters, Jones carried an accurate sledgehammer voice, where notes were palmed with authority but never dropped.
Her vocal delivery fluidly switched or fused genre circuits with her band The Dap-Kings, where a Soul song can easily turn into a Blues one.
Or where a Blues and Soul tune in Jones’ loving hands can be shaped into a delicious funky jam, with extra gravy on the grits.
Or where Jones can put you in the back seat for a round-trip journey to her swinging church service, and as you pass towns like Devotion, Longing and Betrayal, she reminds you that the car never once left Love County.
All this creative reverence came from a singer who was told by a record producer that she was “too fat, too black, too short and too old” to be a Soul singer.
(Laughing) “Too black”?? As an aside, this shows you how gentrification recognizes no lane whatsoever.
If you want to see some round, diminutive and seasoned blackness at work, watch this video of a fired-up Jones raze a Paris stage in 2011, with help from the one and only Prince.
Rest in Love, Sister Jones …