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Women Who Inspire: Sharon Jones

(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

NAME: Sharon Jones

AGE: 57

OCCUPATION: Soul singer extraordinaire

WHO SHE IS: ON FIRE! What else can you say about this 57-year-old rock and old-soul dynamo? The last time I saw Jones perform was at the Beacon Theater with Daryl Hall and Allen Stone, and she blew both of the notable crooners off the stage with her powerhouse pipes. Flickering like a live wire across the stage, wearing a short, shimmery dress, she kicked off her heels and delivered more funk and grit than you can imagine.

The Georgia native was schooled in gospel and has been gigging since the 1970s, somewhat under the radar. She worked as a correction officer at Rikers Island and a security guard until she reemerged as a backup singer in the mid to late ’90s. In 2001, she aligned with the Dap Kings as part of the so-called “vintage soul revival” which led to several critically acclaimed albums on Daptone Records including my favorite: 100 Days, 100 Nights.

Just don’t call her “retro.” She told Rolling Stone earlier this year, “I’m not some kid from the doggone past. They just don’t recognize me. I’m sitting at home every time there’s a Grammy. It’s like, ‘What is Sharon doing tonight?’ I’m sitting home watching it. But it’s OK. But if you go to Europe, there are a lot of young, independent labels that’s doing soul music. You might call them retro because they’re young and they’re trying to imitate somebody. But I ain’t retro. Don’t call me retro.”

WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: To quote the Tina Turner song, she is a “bold soul sister” — an inspiration of sheer determination and talent. In 2013 Sharon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but that didn’t stop her. After undergoing treatment, it seemed she was back almost immediately, proudly sporting her bald, badass self and touring with a new album, Give The People What They Want. And of last report, she’s cancer-free. Whenever I feel tired and worn out and start blaming my age, I look at Sharon, dancing barefoot across a stage and think, “Nope. No excuses.”

Her music video below (albeit a cartoon version of the great Miss Jones) might be called Retreat, but there’s no retreat for this force of nature.

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