The Fallen Survivor: R&B Soul singer Miss Sharon Jones

By: Kristyn Burroughs

God graces everyone with the power to succeed no matter what color, size, or gender you are. Everyone has this strength in them. As for Sharon Jones, her strength was put to the test throughout her lifetime. Netflix recently started streaming the documentary “Miss Sharon Jones.” The initial release of the film was September 11, 2015. Academy award winning director Barbara Kopple was the eyes and ears of this beautiful film. The movie is approximately one hour and thirty minutes long. This story is more than just a film. There is no acting, this is Jones’s real struggles and life success. Along with Sharon Jones, there are several others featured in this film such as Austen Holman, Alex Kadvan, and Megan Holken.

Sharon was a young inspired black woman with an extreme talent onstage and off. In 1980 Sharon was told that she was too dark and too short to become a music star, but Sharon quotes “I never wanted to be a star, I wanted to be recognized” and that is just what she did throughout her many years of performing. She entered the stage with such power and enthusiasm, the audience was stunned from the first step she took on that stage. Her footwork was incredible and the way she felt the music was shown throughout her performances. Her career started out in a simple wedding band called Ms. Jones and the Dap Kings. She also had odd and end jobs such as, a correctional officer to make ends meet. It took Jones more than 30 years to make it. The dap kings were considered a R&B/Soul group. They started preforming more and more and the people loved them. Many fans related her to the famous singer James Brown. Sharon Jones grew up in the projects and it wasn’t easy for her to make a name. Jones was a very selfless woman. She had one goal in her career and it was to get her mom out of the projects. Her mom had 6 kids, Sharon being the youngest and the only one to complete high school. She was a normal teen growing up who loved the outdoors and especially loved to fish. Even throughout her career she would return to Augusta, Georgia to her childhood pond they fished at. She had many wonderful memories but also hit a few bumps down the road. In the Highlight of her career, the horrific news of Stage 2 pancreatic cancer caused a setback for Ms. Jones and the Dap Kings. The women whose hopes and dreams ran freely, had suddenly lost control.

“It seems like everything I’ve done in my life takes a little longer” says Sharon. As a little girl growing up in the projects life was anything but easy. Ms. Jones had become a very strong woman and refused to let this cancer define who she was. The group was getting ready to release their fifth record when the group noticed the yellow discoloring of Sharon’s Eyes, and the frequent weight loss. Soon after that is when the answers came pouring in. After being diagnosed, the reality set in the month of August 2013. Ms. Jones made the decision to shave her beautiful locks. The locks she used to define who she was. The same locks that she so proudly shook back and forth to her music to express joy and freedom. You can see the heart break and tragedy in her eyes as she holds her hair in her hands for the last time. Does this symbolize defeat? Or acceptance?

Sharon’s doctor, Mr. Leonardo, advised Jones to do chemotherapy for 6 months. Throughout this time, she stayed with a dear friend, Megan Holken, in Sharon Springs, New York. Jones experienced some rough times through this six months. She stayed positive and tried to make the most out of the situation. Now the band was put on hold, as jones could not travel and the chemo was taken a toll on her ability to get around. During this time, she spent most of her days in bed watching some of TVs greatest morning shows such as Ellen, the Talk, and the chew. She focused some of her time on painting. Anything to get her mind away from the cancer. After Chemo, she took on a world tour and was featured on many of these popular shows that she once watched from bedside. She always said one day she would be on TV and hoped to dance on the Ellen Show. Sharon Jones loved to express her feelings through dance.

The director of the film made very clear statements throughout the documentary. Certain scenes would go from vivid colors to dusty, almost blurred coloring. This showed the signifacance of where this would be taking place. Noticing that the colors were vivid in times of happiness and staging and when the scenery went back to the studio it faded. In a way, one could interpret the colors to success. The film had several touch and go racial references to emphasize on the fact that Ms. Jones by no means had it easy in making a name for herself and the dap kings. It featured several different areas and several different genders and races. This documentary is very inspiring to not only young adults but also to those who may fear that their time for success has passed. There is no timeframe on success. October 2013 Jones returned to church in Queens, New York. She sings a very touching gospel hymn, “May the Work I’ve done speak for me.” You could see the fear in her eyes in this performance as her whole body moved freely and forcefully at the front of the church. It was very moving and powerful. Watching the emotions shown through Sharon’s eyes made a huge impact on how viewers felt and perceived the film. She put you in the situation with her, almost as if you were a part of her life. Which makes you relate her life to yours. Did I put all my effort into my goals? Did I give it all I could? Why did I give up?

“Miss Sharon Jones” is a rocky, uplifting film. She was nourished back to health through her love and dreams. Her Band is held on by courage as she battles her cancer. “when I’m on stage I have no worries in the world” words spoken by Sharon Jones. The stage was her healer. She survived this battle through her love for performing. Several obstacles come throughout life that you have no control over. Ms. Jones is living proof that miracles happen. Having the highlight of her career in her 50’s. Jones’ Grammy nominated album “Give the People what they want” was the answer she had been looking for all along. This film is a must see. Miss Sharon Jones didn’t let cancer define who she was. Her musical words and performance said it all. Never let failure describe who you will become and never let your failures become your defeat.

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