Snowmass Mammoth Fest: Sharon Jones beats cancer, hits the road with Tedeschi Trucks
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
What: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at Snowmass Mammoth Fest
Where: Snowmass Town Park
When: Sunday, June 14, 6:30 p.m.
Mammoth Fest Full Sunday Schedule
Noon Roadkill Ghost Choir
1:20 p.m. Futurebirds
2:40 The Cave Singers
4 Donavon Frankenreiter
6:30 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
8:15 Tedeschi Trucks Band
Sharon Jones is indestructible.
The soul singer with the booming voice and the funky throwback Dap-Kings behind her, riding a midlife breakout as a star, has beaten cancer and is on the road with the Tedeschi Trucks Band this summer on a high-profile tour that comes to the Snowmass Mammoth Festival on Sunday.
Two years ago, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent a series of surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. She couldn’t sing – and had trouble breathing – for a long stretch beginning in September 2013. Facing the health scare, and her mortality, she turned to music and to her fans for support.
“What I started doing was listening to a lot of gospel — a lot of old-school gospel,” Jones, 59, said recently from her home in Georgia before heading out on the “Wheels of Soul” tour with Tedeschi Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II. “And I was hearing from a lot of fans. Hearing what they had to say, their best wishes and prayers and positivity, that helped me get back out there to make my fans happy. That’s what music is all about. It’s not about me. Without them, it doesn’t matter.”
Hearing crowds cheer as she returned to performing proved to be the best medicine for Jones, she said, though her battle has continued, including removing a tumor from her liver in January. She had a final CAT scan in late May that cleared her for the summer tour. Jones did a few shows in Georgia this spring as soon as she felt healthy.
“That was a good warm up to get me ready,” she said. “As soon as the cancer was over, that’s the first thing I did.”
As Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi were putting together what would become their “Wheels of Soul” summer tour, the husband-and-wife blues greats invited Jones and the Dap-Kings to co-headline with them on the bill.
“Sharon is really soulful and sweet and we know a lot of the Dap-Kings through different projects,” Tedeschi said in a February tour announcement.
They’ve been collaborating on stage during the still-young tour, which started June 5, playing songs like Etta James’ “Tell Mama” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” with Jones on vocals.
Jones has been performing since the 1970s as a session singer and back-up for soul acts like Lee Fields, though she made ends meet with day jobs that included working as a corrections officer on Rikers Island. She didn’t break out until after the turn of the millennium with 2002’s “Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.” A national fan-base soon grew around the band’s electric live shows, and they’re often credited with starting a 21st century soul revival movement.
“All the hard work that I and the Dap-Kings have been doing, all the shows we’ve been doing, it’s finally getting some recognition,” she said.
Jones is a rare performer. She can channel James Brown in vivacious showstoppers, and then quiet a crowd to pin-drop silence with emotionally resonant ballads. The love and accolades she and the Dap-Kings have received in the last decade, she said, is a result of not compromising their style.
“We just continue to be ourselves and do soul music, really,” Jones said. “We just stayed true. We never tried to be something that we’re not. Like, maybe we would do a pop song and that would make people buy it? No. We just do what we do.”
Her band’s sixth studio album, 2014’s “Give the People What They Want,” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. At the awards ceremony in February, Jones said, she realized she still has a lot left to achieve with her music. She doesn’t want to sit in the audience again at the annual awards show – she wants to perform on stage there. She wants to sell a million records. And she wants to play around the world in Asia and Africa, where she and the Dap-Kings haven’t yet ventured.
To get there, she said, she’s focusing on giving fans her all.
“Every night I play on stage like it could be my last night,” she said.