Sharon Jones, the fiery soul singer known for her joyous, funk-heavy live performances and her work with the Dap-Kings, died Friday after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 60.
Jones’ publicist, Judy Miller Silverman, announced the news and said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.”
A Georgia native, Jones grew up singing in church and school but gained prominence as a professional musician later in life, after working as a longtime corrections officer at New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex and an armed guard for Wells Fargo. She quickly made up for lost time, releasing several critically lauded albums, including her 2002 debut, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and her Grammy-nominated 2014 album, Give the People What They Want.
Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 and underwent extensive treatment, returning to the stage in 2015 — a comeback chronicled in Barbara Kopple’s documentary Miss Sharon Jones!, released earlier this year. Her cancer would return, however.
In an interview with EW in August, Jones remained undeterred, looking to the future and expressing the desire to record a gospel album. She also spoke about what kept her motivated. “I said, ‘One day they will pick me for my voice, and not for the way that I look. They’ll see I can sing and it has nothing to do with the way I look,'” she said. “I never got away from music. I had to always be a fighter. It’s always been like that. I’m a fighter, and I keep my faith and my belief.”
Jones’ survivors include four siblings, seven nieces, and three nephews.