A Minute With: Sharon Jones on soul music, cancer and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:24am EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cancer became the inescapable loss lurking in the background of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' latest album, "Give the People What They Want," the sixth release from the indie soul group credited with reviving the genre a dozen years ago.

Jones, the 57-year-old singer who rose to prominence after a career as a backup singer and a stint working as a guard at New York City's Rikers Island jail, lost her mother to cancer while writing material for the album, and the brother of saxophonist Neal Sugarman succumbed to the disease too.

Jones herself was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, which pushed the album's release from last August back to this week, and underwent her final chemotherapy treatment on December 31.

The singer, who has been praised along with her band by Rolling Stone magazine as "extending and preserving tradition," spoke with Reuters about soul music, cancer, getting her due.

Q: What is it like for you to see this album come out?

A: I actually thought that I wasn't even going to be around for this album. I thought I was going to die.

Q: Does it have a special meaning to you?

A: It's dedicated to two people that we knew who died from cancer and I survived cancer - so this album is like a testimony of mine, it's a survival. I was thinking I wasn't going to be here to give them the album (and to) perform it. They wasn't going to see me perform this album live, and so it means a lot to me now that I'm looking at it. Every time I go back and look at it, I'm going to remember my cancer.   Continued...

Singer Sharon Jones poses as she arrives before The Friars Club and Friars Foundation honored Tom Cruise with the Entertainment Icon Award at the Waldorf Astoria in New York June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly