Sharon Jones died on Friday, her publicist has confirmed. She was 60.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings,” said a statement.
In 2013, the soul singer announced she had been diagnosed with stage-one bile duct cancer and underwent surgery, postponing the release of her and the Dap-Kings’ last album of original material, Give the People What They Want, which was released in 2014. Her diagnosis was later changed to stage-two pancreatic cancer, for which Jones had surgery and underwent chemotherapy.
Jones was the subject of the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! that was released earlier this year, following the singer — often referred to as the “female James Brown” — through her battle with cancer and return to the stage. In 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival at a screening for that documentary, Jones revealed that her cancer had returned and she wold be undergoing chemotherapy again.
Last month, Jones canceled her scheduled performance at the White House’s South by South Lawn event on due to pneumonia.
In July, Jones spoke with Billboard‘s Soul Sisters Podcast, vowing to keep performing as long as she was able, despite the aggressive return of her cancer.
“Right now I’m just trying to keep going and keep my fans out there,” she said. “You take as much as you can, and I’m not ready to give up yet.”
Born in North Augusta, South Carolina, adjacent to Augusta, Georgia, she was the youngest of six brothers and sisters, in addition to her deceased aunt’s children who her mother raised. As a young child, the family moved to New York City.
Jones made a life out of music, despite not putting out her own album until the age of 40. She began singing gospel in church and later entered talent shows in the 1970s backed by local funk bands.
For years she worked as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank, until she received a break in 1996 when she appeared as a session singer backing Lee Fields. The only one of the three singers called to the session who showed up, Jones covered all the backing parts herself and impressed Gabe Roth and Philip Lehman of the now defunct record labels Pure Records and Desco Records, who supported Jones’ first solo recordings.
In 2002, Roth’s new label Daptone Records launched with Sharon Jones’ debut album backed by the Dap-Kings band, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. They would go on to release six studio albums, all for Daptone. Their last release was the 2015 Christmas collection It’s a Holiday Soul Party.