Ramblin’ Rhodes: Jones honored from near and far

A memorial service for Augusta native and soul singer Sharon Jones is planned for Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Imperial Theater. FILE/STAFF

California-based filmmaker Matt Rogers remembers the first time he saw rhythm & blues singer Sharon Jones and her band The Dap Kings perform about 15 years ago.

 

“What was most stunning in New York City when I saw her … was that there were maybe 20 people there,” he told the online site pri.org.

“Sharon gave an amazing show, a very electric show, and I just couldn’t believe that there were so few people in this ‘hip’ New York City club.

“Shortly thereafter, I followed the band up to Montreal, and at the Montreal gig there were probably about 600 people crammed into this sold-out club who absolutely went bananas for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Where was this love down in New York as opposed to over the border?”

He recalls Jones’ 50th birthday party celebration at Irving Plaza hotel in downtown New York in 2006 was sold out and that – due to her late-night talk show TV appearances and popular music videos – “people really were starting to take notice of her here.”

Eventually the worldwide media, especially major publications such as Rolling Stone and The New York Times, did take notice as did local residents of her hometown of Augusta.

Jones died at age 60 on Nov. 18 at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., of complications from cancer and a stroke. She leaves behind a rich legacy of hundreds of fan-made concert videos found on youtube.com, scores of professional videos, seven studio albums for Daptone Records and at least one album yet to be released.

Her life and career are being honored this week with two Celebration of Life services that are open to the public.

The first is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. She lived in New York City for more than 50 years but returned most summers and other special times to visit her extended family in North Augusta.

Local friends and fans can honor her memory with the second service scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Imperial Theatre where she performed several times.

The family intends for the celebration to include a lot of music that she loved including traditional hymns. The local service is expected to draw fans from afar.

Since Jones’ death, the worldwide media has lauded her accomplishments and praised her memorable stage performances.

Here are some samplings:

David Cassidy, Cabin Creek Films, co-producer with Barbara Kopple on the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! “I’m grateful that Sharon enjoyed our film, and that we are all now keepers of her legacy. I hold that it’s an honor to have my name on the film of her life. My words here are a bit ineloquent. I’m still struggling to allow people to understand how special Sharon was to so many. Perhaps it’s an experience only those that really knew her can grasp.”

Jon Pareles, New York Times: “But with the Dap-Kings – who sometimes introduced her as ‘110 pounds of soul excitement’ – she became an unstoppable front woman. As she sang about love troubles, hard times and a woman’s strength, she would race across the stage in high heels – and sooner or later kick them off – while shouting and shimmying in fringed, sequined dresses.”

Jason Newman, rollingstone.com: “It was her exhilarating live shows, which functioned as equal parts Baptist church revival, Saturday night juke joint and raucous 1970s Las Vegas revue that showcased the singer’s unparalleled energy.

“In venues filled with people half her age, Jones was the most dynamic person in the room, bolting onstage and commanding the crowd like her idol James Brown. It was homage without mimicry; respecting the soul and funk elders that defined the genres while displaying seemingly boundless vitality. Jones’ power was the ability to straddle the line between thankful humility, born out of late-in-life success, and boastful performer.”

Daily Mail, United Kingdom: “It wasn’t until her forties that Jones found success with her music.

“Upon hearing the news of her passing, producer Mark Ronson, who brought in the Dap-Kings to play backup to Amy Winehouse on her hit album Back To Black, paid tribute to the soul singer.

“’Sharon Jones had one of the most magnificent, gut-wrenching voices of anyone in recent time,’ he said.”

Alexia Fernandez, People.com: “After the news of her death broke, singers, musicians and others took to Twitter to express their grief and condolences such as Whoopi Goldberg. [She tweeted] ‘The fabulous Sharon Jones has passed tonight. She &her band The Dap Kings made great music together &she sang her butt off. Condolences. RIP.’”

Chaka Khan: “My deepest condolences 2 the family of @sharonjones. She was the real deal in this industry. 2016 you’ve been awful.”

John Legend: “So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and the soulful, dynamic singer I loved performing with, Sharon Jones.”

Last July, Jones told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross about what it was like to return to performing after surgery and performing while undergoing chemotherapy.

“That’s my therapy,” she said. “Being onstage … it’s like this cancer is here and I have to take the chemo but I want to perform. I don’t want to be home just taking medicine and waiting to die, you know? I – that’s not something I’m about. “I’m going to keep on keeping on as long as I’ve got my health and strength and God gives me that will to do it.”

Jones’ official website, sharonjonesandthedapkings.com, recommends in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following:

  • The Lustgarten Foundation: lustgarten.org/donate
  • James Brown Family Foundation: jamesbrownfamilyfdn.org/online/index.php/j-a-m-p
  • Little Kids Rock: littlekidsrock.org/support-us/donation

 

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