In a musical landscape where auto-tuning and airbrushing is the norm, when authenticity is subsumed under layers of production, there’s something almost organic about a talent like Sharon Jones. Famously described by a record exec as “too short, too black,” she made her was as a wedding singer and corrections officer until finding her way with a bunch of hairy guys from Brooklyn.
Miss Sharon Jones has been lighting up stages ever since, a firecracker of an entertainer following in the giant footsteps of the likes of James Brown. Her music is raw, her smile contagious, her spirit immense.
Esteemed documentarian Barbara Kopple follows Jones at her lowest, when her spirit is dampened during a fight with cancer. The film easily could be yet another film that simply tears at our heart strings and shows the ravages of the disease, yet the work, not surprisingly, is far more sophisticated than that. The story of Dap Tone records is worthy of its own docs, but as a fan I was fascinated to see the process of recording, and the raw realities of trying to make a soul label work in the age of disposable music.
The director delves into the stories around Jones – the musicians whose livelihoods are tied to her health, the doctors who care for her, the tireless management team who at once must keep the train moving forward while recognizing that the engine may never come back from repairs.
Even the happy ending manages to be both ecstatic (glorious shots Jones performing all over the world), and somber (we learned at the screening, as hinted in the end of the film, that the cancer has returned). Life isn’t fair, cancer doesn’t choose sides, but the music, and the spirit of this remarkable women, lifts us all up nonetheless. Sharon Jones’ talent is a treasure, and Kopple’s fine doc has further immortalized it.
SEP 18 12:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre Scotiabank 1