Sharon Jones, 1956-2016

Oh, Sharon Jones. How can your voice be stilled?

I remember seeing you a few years ago at the Center Stage in Atlanta. I don’t get to many live shows anymore, but I definitely was going to see you and the Dap-Kings. I’d heard so much: You were the second coming of James Brown, of Otis Redding, of every great spirit-fueled singer who left every ounce of themselves on the stage.

You didn’t let me down.

It was a furious demonstration of soul and passion, the Dap-Kings providing the ballast as you scaled the heights. You took no shit. You told your man how you felt. You called your country to account. You belted and crooned and raved. You could have charged 10 times as much for admission; it would have been worth every penny.

And now you’re gone.

We knew this was coming, of course. You had pancreatic cancer. That’s a bad one. Few people even get past a year. You made it three, long enough to get back on stage and attend the premiere of “Miss Sharon Jones!”

You’d made it so far. You were once a correction officer. You were once an armored car guard. You sang at weddings. (Lucky couples.) You were called “too fat, too black, too short and too old.” But you were not going to be denied. (You even did the wiring at Daptone Records’ studios.)

Up top is your rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.” That’s the studio version, where you’re biting off the words just the way Woody intended. (He wrote it in reaction to that jingoistic “God Bless America,” after all.) But it’s also a joyous song, a celebration of this big country as well as the people it’s often forgotten. So here’s a live version full of your amazing spirit.

God, I’ll miss you.

P.S. God damn it, 2016. Haven’t you done enough?

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