Sharon Jones: Life Lessons | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, September 28th, 2020  

Sharon Jones

Life Lessons

Apr 12, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Issue #31 - Spring 2010 - Joanna Newsom
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Sharon Jones is no stranger to struggle, be it familial, financial, or professional. However, at 54 years old, the soul singer is unfazed by the task of rehashing some of her difficult life lessons. "Struggle should make you a better person. I don't want to become a nasty person; I don't want to do something evil,"  she says. Not that anyone who heard her music would expect Jones' warmhearted outlook to translate to wilting flower. "I'm not biting my tongue. I'm not going to have someone talk to me or mistreat me in any way. I've taken enough crap. Ive learned the hard way!” she says with a laugh, referencing the title of her fourth album, I Learned the Hard Way. 

Jones’ life lessons kicked off at an early age, when she realized that 1950s family values seemed to exist only in the confines of her favorite televisions shows. “Sometimes you look for things that you never really experienced,” she says. “I never experienced the parent father/mother love type of thing.” Her parents’ violent separation left her mother a single parent of six children in the New York projects. “But I experienced the love of a parent,” she says. “We may not have gotten what we wanted, but we got what we needed.” With her mother’s unconditional support, Jones found the inspiration to pursue a career in singing. “She always taught me that, ‘If you love it, I love it.’”

The early 1970s music industry wasn’t on board with Jones’ mother’s maxim, as the young singer was consistently told her look wasn’t commercial. But the string of rejections that might have turned a lesser woman to bitterness only enforced Jones’ belief in her talent. “You never give up your faith. That’s something I’d tell any young person. You have a dream, you follow that. You don’t let anybody get on your dream! It might not be going the way you want it, but you have to stay focused. Sometimes you’ve got to let go and get rid of things, drop everything, go clear your head out and start fresh. But you stay focused on what you want to do. If you’ve got that talent, go for it,” she says with a satisfied laugh. “No one sat me down and taught me how to sing, how to do anything. I learned. I listened. I would sing along with Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin and James Brown and Otis and Tina Turner and Gladys Knight. Any of them. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t Michael Jackson!”

Jones’ career trajectory, however, was more nine to five than Jackson 5. She worked a series of day jobs for two decades, including a stint as a Rikers Island guard from 1988 to 1990. “I never stopped singing, but as far as trying to get an album or something, yeah, that was gone,” she admits. Singing, it appeared, was a dream limited to background vocals and weddings, until a mid-’90s recording session for Lee Fields brought her in contact with future Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth and members of her current band The Dap-Kings. Daptone released Jones’ debut LP Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in 2002. At the Brooklyn-based label, Jones learned another crucial lesson: Consistency is king. “You gotta stay true to what you’re doing. We’re not jumping all around going, ‘Oh this doesn’t seem like it’s working. Let’s go try some hip-hop’ or ‘let’s go try some digital stuff.’ Staying true to what we do, that’s why people are coming to us, ’cause we got something. And they want it! We’re going to put it out and we’re going to be happy about it!”

Jones’ new album, I Learned the Hard Way, is a testament to the depth of her life experience. Written by The Dap-Kings (“Everyone who knows me should know that!” says Jones, proud of her band’s talents), the songs come alive with Jones’ knowing delivery, particularly the show-stopping track, “Money.” “Ain’t nothing evil about money. It’s what you do to get that money that’s the evilness. You’ve got to hurt someone or step on somebody or take someone’s job or bring someone down for you to get up, that’s evil, that’s wrong. But if you’re just doing your thing and people want to pay you for doing your thing, what’s evil about that?” Jones asks, pleased to be in the latter camp. “Even when I started coming up, people I hadn’t even heard from, family, once they saw me a couple of times, the phone started ringing, they thinking I had something, thinking I had some money. They came with open hands saying, ‘Can you help me pay my bills?’ And I was like ‘You haven’t talked to me all these years you might as well hang up. No! I’m not going to give you nothing! You haven’t been around me while I’ve struggled to get here, don’t call me now!’”

Not one to shy away from discussing personal topics, Jones is more than willing to talk about love—a subject that influences the bulk of her catalog—and is unapologetic about her romantic status. “Right now I don’t feel bad that I’m not in a relationship. I choose not to be in a relationship. My career is kicking off now!” she says, the conversation turning back to her long-standing love. “The love I have right now is for my music.” She’s quick to stress that singleness doesn’t equal loneliness. “Now I’m 54, I’m not going to have children. That’s not to say that I can’t adopt one, but who cares? I can be a mentor, reach out. I’ve got great nieces, great nephews! I’ve got great family right here.”

When it comes to mentoring, Jones has wisdom to spare, particularly when drawing from her past. “Sharon, you’ve got a talent, just get with the right people,” she says, giving her younger self an imaginary pep talk. “The main thing is to study. The more educated you are, the more you learn and do.” Her voice drops to a thoughtful whisper. “And the more you learn, the better life treats you.” (www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com)

 

 



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Loop
September 5th 2018
3:24am

One thing is to be passionate about music and it is another thing to know how to play musical instruments or sing. One can take music lessons boston to become an expert and maybe to find a good job in this field. After all, the best job to have is to be something that you like and enjoy every day.