Sharon Jones is no stranger to struggle, be it familial, financial, or professional. However, at 54 years old, the soul singer is unfazed by the task of rehashing some of her difficult life lessons. “Struggle should make you a better person. I don’t want to become a nasty person; I don’t want to do something evil,” she says. Not that anyone who heard her music would expect Jones’ warmhearted outlook to translate to wilting flower. “I’m not biting my tongue. I’m not going to have someone talk to me or mistreat me in any way. I’ve taken enough crap. I’ve learned the hard way!” she says with a laugh, referencing the title of her fourth album, I Learned the Hard Way. (via Sharon Jones: Life Lessons | Under The Radar)
In honor of Tumblr’s #blackout, today’s playlist is a showcase of supremely talented black women. These artists were all featured at 2014’s AFROPUNK festival, a true mecca of cultural diversity. The playlist ranges from folk to hip-hop to experimental-alternative to funk to soul, so you’re sure to find something you love. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are at the forefront of a retro-revival movement with the goal of resurrecting the 60s and 70s both in sound and recording methods. Pictured is Lianne La Havas, an English singer-songwriter-instrumentalist. Lolawolf consists of Zoe Kravitz plus members of Reputante. Meshell Ndegeocello is the pioneer of the neo-soul movement, has received ten Grammy nominations, is bisexual, and has photosensitive-epilepsy. This playlist is a collection of multiply-gifted women and we are lucky we get to listen to them!
Less than a year after a terrifying cancer diagnosis, Sharon Jones stages a triumphant return. Set, as always, against The Dap-Kings’ characteristically springy horns, Jones growls and struts through 10 timeless songs that couldn’t sound better suited to the big stage.
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, Brooklyn’s own queen of funky soul, has been diagnosed with stage one cancer. She’s postponed her album and tour, but says the cancer is treatable and operable. Blast some Dap Kings today to show your support and send her some healing vibes.
“Over the last few weeks I haven’t felt good and I didn’t know what was going on. We sadly had to cancel shows while I went through a series of tests and short hospital stays. We just found out that I have a stage-one tumor on my bile duct. Luckily we caught it really early and fast and the doctors say it’s operable and curable!
I will be having surgery very soon and will have to rest and recover. I’ll be staying in touch and keeping my fans and friends updated on my progress. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road to give the people what they want!”
But, of course in the recent pantheon of soul, I have to discuss “the screaming eagle of soul” Charles Bradley. Bradley, much like his peers Sharon Jones and Ralph “Soul” Jackson has a profoundly interesting life story – the sort of life story that would be perfect for a biopic: Bradley has spent a portion of his life homeless, and he’s toiled in obscurity in a number of ill-fitting, soul crushing jobs, including being a James Brown impersonator, when Daptones Records Gabriel Roth discovered him. In some way, James Brown is in fact, a fair comparison – vocally, they kind of sound alike. But Bradley is an earnest, emotional whirlwind of the likes of Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson. The heartbreak and pain Bradley howls, and croons about is as visceral as your own heartbreak. And if you don’t feel it, you have a cold, cold heart.
Check out “Strictly Reserved For You,"off his soon-to-be released album, Victim of Love. Once you watch the video, I think you’ll agree – Charles Bradley is the fucking man.
You can catch Bradley on tour to support the new album, and it’ll include a stop at the Apollo Theater on May 16th.