Sharon Jones, the fiery soul singer and longtime leader of the Dap-Kings, has died following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 60 years old.
According to a statement posted to Facebook, Jones “was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts during this difficult time.”
A native of Brooklyn, Jones began singing in her church’s gospel choir. She spent the early part of her career in relative obscurity, cutting her chops as a session singer. All the while, she worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank.
Jones finally got her big break in 1996 after she appeared on a session backing Lee Fields. She was signed by Gabriel Roth to soul/funk label Desco Records, where she released a series of 45s. When Roth formed Daptone Records a few years later, Jones became the label’s preeminent artist. With her backing band the Dap-Kings, she released six albums and toured the globe extensively. She was especially known for her high-energy live shows during which she rarely stopped moving.
Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2013. She briefly went into remission in 2014, but the cancer returned the following year. Despite her illness, Jones and the Dap-Kings had been touring up until late September. In October, she was booked to perform at the White House’s South by South Lawn Festival in October, but canceled at the last minute due to illness.
Miss Sharon Jones!, a documentary chronicling Jones’ career and cancer battle, was released earlier this year to rave reviews.