Jones, the 57-year-old singer who rose to prominence after a
career as a backup singer and a stint working as a guard at New
York City's Rikers Island jail, lost her mother to cancer while
writing material for the album, and the brother of saxophonist
Neal Sugarman succumbed to the disease too.
Jones herself was diagnosed with bile duct cancer, which pushed
the album's release from last August back to this week, and
underwent her final chemotherapy treatment on December 31.
The singer, who has been praised along with her band by Rolling
Stone magazine as "extending and preserving tradition," spoke
with Reuters about soul music, cancer, getting her due.
Q: What is it like for you to see this album come out?
A: I actually thought that I wasn't even going to be
around for this album. I thought I was going to die.
Q: Does it have a special meaning to you?
A: It's dedicated to two people that we knew who died
from cancer and I survived cancer — so this album is like a
testimony of mine, it's a survival. I was thinking I wasn't
going to be here to give them the album (and to) perform it.
They wasn't going to see me perform this album live, and so it
means a lot to me now that I'm looking at it. Every time I go
back and look at it, I'm going to remember my cancer.
Q: Many consider you a survivor in the music industry,
only coming to prominence after age 40.
A: I just think that they're not giving us, me and
Dap-Kings and (our label) Daptone Records and other true soul — any other independent soul record labels — the major labels
aren't giving us an opportunity to be recognized, saying that
soul music died in the '60s and the '70s. And it did not. I'm a
soul singer. I'm not a retro singer.
[to top of second column]
Q: Would you claim credit for helping re-popularize soul
music preceding the rise of Amy Winehouse? She even used the
Dap-Kings as her band for her mega-hit album "Back to Black."
A: I would be a nut to say no. Of course, I
just told you we've been out here 19 going on 20 years, pushing the
music we've been doing and we've never changed. So now people are
finally hearing. So why do you think (producer) Mark Ronson came to
us for Amy? Michael Buble wanted me. He wanted a soul singer. He
wanted somebody to do it, and we did that. Al Green had us on. They
needed a certain soul sound. And so I think being there, hanging in
and doing what we're doing, we've opened doors. Now you look, there
are so many different independent labels doing soul music, all over
Europe. More in Europe than here in the States.
"The major labels don't recognize soul music or they
don't know how to put someone in a category because they don't have
soul singers. They don't understand that. You get somebody that's
young, a (Justin) Timberlake or somebody, and play some soul riff
behind them and they can get up and sing something, but that's not
soul singing. If you want to call that retro, you can do that. But
I'm a soul singer.
Q: Do you feel like you're still fighting for respect?
A: Of course, definitely. That's the fight it's going to be
on until the time come they (the Grammy Awards) recognize soul
music. That's my fight. I just want them to recognize that there are
soul music out here and soul singers today.
Q: Do you often consider your own legacy?
A: No, I don't. I don't even look at it because to me it's
just me doing what God has blessed me to do. ... I'm getting what
I've put all these years of hard work into. It's finally coming
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric
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