The first time I saw Miss Sharon Jones! live, the Dap-Kings were just starting to make a name for themselves. I bought tickets for myself and a couple of friends, and we went to the show not really knowing what to expect. When the band announced Miss Sharon Jones!, out strode the boldest, sassiest, brassiest, sexiest woman ever to take a stage (when reading that last bit, my voice dropped a full two octaves below its natural register), who then put on the greatest show we had ever seen. Before the concert was over, I found out where they were playing the very next day, and took two new friends to that show, because the greatest experiences in life are shared experiences. So, if you don’t know anything about who Sharon Jones was, go check her out. And if you like what you hear, pass it on.
DJ and producer Mark Ronsontells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about getting the retro-soul band The Dap-Kings to play on Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black:
“I had started to use Dave Guy, the trumpet player, an incredible musician. I had started to work with him a little bit because I was making these demos of cover versions I did for my second album, Version. But I was doing all the tracks, and then we’d work out the horn arrangements together. So he came into the studio one day, and they had just cut a cover of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for something with Sharon Jones, and I just was blown away by how they got that [sound]. I mean, it was just so much the real deal.
And at the time, Amy and I were working on demos for Back To Black, and I was probably using whatever computer trick I could. They have plug-ins for your computer that make things sound old or whatever it is, and I played Amy this recording of Sharon Jones. And I said, “How good is this? We should get these guys to play these demos.” And she’s like, “Yeah, yeah.” She would say, “It’s the nuts” if she thought something was really good — it was “the nuts.” So she said it was “the nuts” and we got the whole band, not just the horn section.”
This interview is part of our Best of 2015 series.
Sharon Jones, the lead singer for the Dap-Kings, passed today at age 60 after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Jones was unique for starting her career at a time when the music industry put artists in a graveyard for their age, and then later being recognized by that same industry. She started singing professionally in the ‘70’s with various R&B bands she created but her breakthrough did not happen until 2002. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings immediately hit the radar with their debut album, Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Jones’s James Brown-inspired stage presence brought the energy of the '60’s into the 2000’s as a leader of a throwback soul movement. They recorded seven albums and received a Grammy nomination in the R&B Album Of The Year category for Give The People What They Want. Their music has been heard in several films and Jones had a cameo in The Great Debaters as a juke joint singer. In 2015, the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! debuted at the Toronto Film Festival.