Sharon Jones
  • Kyle Dean Reinford
  • Sharon Jones

Sharon Jones was onstage in Idaho this past April, belting out her powerhouse soul, when she hit a note and doubled over in pain. It was like she'd been punched in the back, hard. She turned around to her band, the Dap-Kings, and cringed, but regained her composure to finish the show. The pain continued; she was unable to sit up on a plane afterward. She tried massages, thinking it was muscle-related, but in the next weeks, her eyes yellowed with jaundice and her urine became as dark as brandy. She lost 30 pounds. The band's album was three months from release. She and the Dap-Kings' rhythm and horns had been working on it for two years—their fifth full-length, titled Give the People What They Want. Doctors ran tests, eventually diagnosing the 57-year-old Jones with pancreatic cancer. Surgeries and chemotherapy followed. Music was on hold. The treatment left her unable to sing, and she was also grieving the loss of her mother. But Sharon Jones is indomitable. She's as solid as they come. Her last chemo session was New Year's Eve, and within weeks, she was doing shows. She was weak, but she was back: bald, bold, resilient, and beautiful. Giving the people what they want. The dignified working queen of soul. She spoke from Memphis, Tennessee.

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