Who Sharon Jones Was To Me

To many, Sharon Jones is the female James Brown. She is the quintessence of soul and sass in her respective genre. She is, without doubt, one of the most talented musicians to ever grace the ears of the millions of people who adored her.

Today, she passed away.

This blog post is a significant departure from my previous posts. I often write about business, politics, public relations, journalism and current events. Today, I want to talk about music; more specifically, the cultural icon that is Sharon Jones (and why she should matter to everyone).

The first time I ever wrote online about my love for music was in 2014. To this day, it remains the sole piece of writing on my Medium page. Since then, I've expressed my musical interests at random on Twitter and that's about it. For those of you who don't know, I love music. I listen to hours of music on a daily basis. I've been collecting vinyl for years now. I jumped into the subscription-based music service market when it was still in its infancy because I loved having unfettered and unlimited access to millions of songs. Music says a lot about a person, not just what he or she listens to, but also how her or she listens to it. I link to my Spotify page on my website because I believe that my musical tastes say something about me.

As I stated in my Medium post two and a half years ago, "<Music is> audible art. The creative nature that artists intertwine into the lyrics, melody and instrumental components of a song is miraculous." That's no less true with the legendary Sharon Jones. I first came upon the music of Sharon Jones while I was in high school. I was, quite seriously, blown away by her voice. Her voice commands a fierce zeal; that, in addition to her gracefully domineering stage presence, created a fan out of me. My greatest regret is that I never saw her perform live. While it's terribly sad that I won't get the chance now, I'm glad to have been able to listen to her (and I'm equally pleased that millions of other people had the chance to see her live before she passed).

To me, Sharon Jones was the embodiment of inspirational soul. She worked various jobs (such as a Riker's Island prison guard) throughout her life to support herself and her aspiring music career; she overcame bigotry and racism in pursuit of what she wanted to do; she overcame "age-ism," as she didn't being to record professionally until the age of 40; she fought cancer for years, continuing to tour and release new music in spite of it. Sharon Jones didn't just sing good music; she inspired her listeners to pursue their dreams, to stare into the face of impossible odds and say "I'm still here." Sharon Jones epitomizes the kind of soul, determination and energy our society needs right now.

Right before I get on that stage, it’s like something comes over me and the pain goes away.
— Sharon Jones, in an interview with The Guardian in July 2016

She overcame adversity and racism. She battled disease and illness. She pursued her dreams. She kept her faith and acted in grace. She has done what the rest of us need to continue to do. Sharon Jones had every excuse to give up in the 1990s when a record producer told her she was "too fat, too black, too short and too old." She had every reason to give up when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013. She had every reason to give up when her cancer came back even stronger. But she fought on, with unparalleled energy and dynamism that demanded our attention. And we were pleased to give it.

Sharon Jones's death isn't just sad because it's a human being dying. Her death marks the end of her battle, and it should encourage us to continue to fight the adversity we still face. It's what she should have done. For those of us who are left behind...we have quite the role model. We can do this; Sharon's already led the way.

Rest in peace, Ms. Jones. There will never be another one like you.

*Header photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.