Sharon Jones Is Fighting Cancer And Still Singing: BUST Interview

by Katherine Barner

Cancer. It’s a six-letter word with immeasurable power. It has hit most people in this world in one way or another, whether directly or not. Soul singer Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just as her career in music was really starting to take off. In a publicized battle against the disease, Jones provided hope, strength, and optimism, as displayed in the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! The film traces Jones’ life, from her diagnosis of stage-2 pancreatic cancer in 2013, to her return to the stage in 2015.

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Jones is often referred to as the female James Brown, with a contagious, captivating energy. If you didn’t know her story, one would never know the health battle she is going through by watching her perform. Although the cancer has returned for a second time as she announced last September, she continues to perform because it is what she loves best. “I got the energy, I can get up and go out and do it, I want to do it,” Jones tells BUST. “I don’t want to be laying around and I don’t want to be getting chemo and getting weak and just waiting to die. I want to function.” 

Cancer may be Jones’ most significant physical battle to date, but she’s been a fighter all her life. The 60-year-old powerhouse discussed in the documentary and in her new single, “I’m Still Here,” the anthem for Miss Sharon Jones! that she was rejected by record companies in the past for being “too short, too fat, too black and too old.” Fortunately, she kept pushing. “I always felt that God had blessed me with a gift that one day people would be accepting of my gift,” says Jones.

Miss Sharon Jones! was directed by Barbara Kopple, who recognized something special in Jones from the first day they met. “The first time I met her was the day she was having her hair shaved, and that was so intimate and so incredible that it really set up a bond,” says Kopple. “Right after that, we went to the store where she was getting her wig and I could see that sense of humor and sense of playfulness come through even though she was going through a very hard time, that this is a woman that’s just so full of life, it’s amazing.”

Today, Jones continues to fight and perform nonstop. She’s on tour through September, and celebrating the release of Miss Sharon Jones!, which was two years in the making. Within the past year, she recorded two albums with her band the Dap-Kings. If you have watched TV at all lately, you have probably seen her singing  the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider” in a commercial for Lincoln cars. She opened for Hall and Oates on two national tours. And now, you can see her story in a theater near you. But the best news of them all? Sharon is on the up and up. “So far the cancer count is going down; it looks good, it’s working great, my liver, everything looks good.” We’re rooting for you, Sharon!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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