Archive for May, 2017

Miss Sharon Jones (One Night Only)

May 28, 2017

Part of Sharon Jones’ encore of “Get Up and Get Out,” College Street Music Hall, New Haven, 5/27/16. From YouTube.

I thought of this yesterday with the news of Gregg Allman’s death; I free-associated to this version of “Midnight Rider.” And, coincidentally, it was year ago yesterday I saw maybe the most emotionally wrenching show I’ll ever see.

5/27/16, Friday of Memorial weekend, four days after my father’s funeral, after he died of cancer. Finally (!!!) got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, at College Street in New Haven (with my bestie, Paola, who turned me on to them many years ago). Sharon had obviously lost some weight in her second battle with cancer, but she looked fab in that sequined dress.

But I could see her constantly talking with Bosco between songs, and the look of distress, occasionally anger, on her face and in her body language as the show went on. The cancer acting up, maybe? Well, I got the answer about two-thirds of the way through, when she had to take herself off the stage, slightly hunched over in pain. The band and her singers carried on, and I figured that she wouldn’t be coming back.

But about 10 minutes later, there she was, walking slowly back to the stage. She sang “This Land Is Your Land”; most of the way through the song, after breaking into some dancing, she took herself over to the riser to sit for the rest of the song, not missing a beat. Then, after another break, a full-lunged encore of “Get Up and Get Out” and “Retreat!” A huge fuck-you to the disease that eventually got the upper hand on her.

She didn’t have to come out again for the end of the set, let alone an encore. For this night at least, she had gotten the better of her cancer. And while she didn’t intend it this way, she had given us a great gift — herself, in a way most artists never have to, sharing with us whatever she could while she still had breath.

I walked away shaken.

Like my father, who was tough as you’d expect from a child of the Depression — he was on his feet until four days before he died — I had been optimistic that Sharon would conquer her cancer again. After this show, not so much. I knew it would be my first and last Sharon Jones show. It didn’t make the news go down any easier the night of Nov. 18.

I still choke up as often as not when I hear one of her songs. It might be on one of my mixdiscs. It might be the night of May 4, in honor of Sharon’s first birthday without Sharon, when The Dap-Kings sat in with Stephen Colbert’s house band. Or a segue from “Midnight Rider” to another. Today, it’s not so much eyes welling up as it is a heavy sigh.

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