Sharon Jones is the biggest star you don’t know about.
On Thursday night she rocked the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. She’ll do it again tonight, for New Year’s Eve. If you’re in the area, and you love great music, don’t miss her.
Jones is no spring chicken, but she shimmies like Tina Turner and sings like Gladys Knight. She also channels James Brown. Maybe that’s because she’s also from Augusta, Georgia.
For years, Jones was a wedding singer. But about 10 years she and her group, the Dap Kings, took off. They are legends in Brooklyn, and sell around 200,000 per CD. They have four of them out so far on the tiny Daptone label. They’re all great. My favorite is “100 Days, 100 Nights.”
Last night at the Best Buy, I couldn’t believe how the place was jammed. They were standing like sardines. Jones’s crowd is youngish– mid 20s to mid 30s–and mostly white, although there were some faces of all kinds waving their arms and dancing around.
Jones herself is tiny, but is a ball of energy. She swoops across the stage, never losing a breath or missing a beat. Her voice is unassailably classic soul. But she’s a woman out of time–too young by a dozen years to have served in the legacy era of R&B. But that’s her sound, it comes naturally, it is all organic. She’s Millie Jackson. Tina Turner, and Gladys Knight when she sings, James Brown when she moves. Her voice can go from rough to sweet, with so many textures and colors. You have to think the soul gods–where Betty Everett, Mary Wells, Florence Ballard, and Barbara Acklin all reside-have sent Sharon Jones to us.
But she told me backstage that Aretha Franklin is her idol. They met earlier this year when Franklin was honored at the Apollo Theater. One day they’ll get a real chance to talk.
You’ll be interested to know that it’s Dan Aykroyd, who also loves soul music, who got her on Jay Leno last spring. She recently returned to his show. And Jones has just come back from a world tour.
But she says she’s still living with her mother in Queens, in the projects. Hello! Something is wrong with this story! Maybe in 2011 Sharon Jones will break out and make the money she deserves. Clive, LA Reid, Sylvia Rhone–do something! (Photo of Sharon and singers, c2010 Ann Lawlor/Showbiz411)