Hometown hero Sharon Jones returns to Augusta with her band the Dap-Kings Saturday, Feb. 7, for an evening of hearts and soul at Bell Auditorium.
The concert, which will also feature the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils and Ed Turner and Number 9, benefits the University Health Care Foundation’s Smart Heart Fund. The fund provides free heart and vascular screenings for Augusta-area student athletes and first responders. Tickets are $25-$75, or $1,000 for a table.
Jones and the Dap-Kings have built an international reputation for resurrecting a big band-driven funk-and-soul sound that recalls acts such as Booker T and the MGs, Aretha Franklin and the most important touchstone for Jones, James Brown.
“I wish he could see what we are doing here,” she said.
The band’s most recent album, Give the People What They Want, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best R&B Album category.
Jones returned to the Augusta area, choosing to make her home in North Augusta, several years ago after years in New York City. She said it made playing a benefit in Augusta an easy choice.
“It has always been important to me to give back,” she said. ”I mean, how can I have $1,000 when there is someone else that needs something? Being able to do this, and being able to do it here, was very important to me.”
Performing for a medical cause, Jones explained, was particularly fitting after fighting two battles with cancer in as many years. In 2013, she was diagnosed with and treated for bile duct cancer. Late in 2014, her doctors found a small tumor on her liver.
“They were great about it though,” she said with a laugh. “They called it a tiny little tumor. They made it sound cute.”
While much was made of her decision to return to performing shortly after completing chemotherapy and before her hair returned – “I did draw on some eyebrows,” she said with a smile – Jones said it was important to her to own her new identity and share it with fans, whom she credits as an essential component of her recovery.
“I was fighting the battle, and you are never really cured,” she said. “I’ll always be labeled as a cancer survivor but that’s a badge I’m proud to wear. I am strong today because I was able to go out there and be around all that positive energy – all that love.”
Erica Cline, senior communications specialist at University Health Care System, said it was Jones’s history and ties to the community that made her a natural choice to headline the Heart Song Concert.
“When we started talking about who we wanted for this there were a lot of names mentioned and Sharon was always part of that conversation,” she said. “It just always seemed like a perfect fit. It was a case of A fitting with B and B fitting with C.”
Cline said that the local focus, which includes booking local acts to open the performance, is an important part of the message.
“This is money that is raised locally and stays local and helps local patients,” she said. “We are very excited to be able to do this.”
It’s that excitement, Jones said, that adds significance to the show.
“Sometimes you lose track,” she said. “The dressing rooms start to look the same. The theaters start to look the same. There are exceptions – like the Apollo, but there are a lot you don’t remember.”
“But I know I’m more excited about this,” she continued. “I’m excited because I am able to perform. I’m excited because I have beaten that cancer and I’m excited because this, for me, is home.”