On the occasion of the late, great Sharon Jones' 61st birthday (May 4), Odette Mercy & Her Soul Atomics will perform Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ 2005 album, Naturally, for Atomic Love: A Sharon Jones Tribute, a fundraiser for the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation at the Newport Record Club.

Pic courtesy

On the occasion of the late, great Sharon Jones' 61st birthday (May 4), Odette Mercy & Her Soul Atomics will perform Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ 2005 album, Naturally, for Atomic Love: A Sharon Jones Tribute, a fundraiser for the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation at the Newport Record Club.

"What can you say, Sharon was ace. She was kind, funny and as sharp as anyone you ever met. She told great stories; whether recounting the crazy days of ‘90s wedding bands in New Jersey or reminiscing about growing up in early ‘70s New York. Mostly though, Sharon got on stage and told a story of someone whose talent and sheer presence meant that they could not and would not be denied a chance to be heard. She was an original in the true sense of the word, who carved her own path after years of finding the way blocked. I miss Sharon and that brilliant smile and joyous laugh. It was a privilege to hang out with her."

  • Russell Hopkinson, Daptone Records/You Am I

Sharon Jones was certainly one of a kind. A singer with a talent that was seemingly suppressed from the wider world by life circumstances, she finally fought her way to global recognition with a strength of spirit that characterises both her voice and the songs she sang.

Ofa Fotu - who fronts Odette Mercy & Her Soul Atomics, performing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ 2005 album, Naturally, at the Newport Record Club – finds it easy to describe what she finds inspiring in Jones as a singer and performer.

“Her voice,” she states. “Her storytelling. Her ability to make every person in any room feel like she is singing to them, individually. Her energy to dance. I feel like every performer would see a show of hers, and if you and your band could have one show like that - with the energy, tightness of the band... then you could go away feeling like you could, probably, quite then.

“As a performer, you want to be able to achieve all of these things, surely? When I went and saw Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings for the first time, I was purely a punter. It was before I had even thought it possible that I might be able to be a muso. I had bought Dap Dippin (2002) and Naturally for my partner at the time and ended up falling in love with the records. But when we saw the show... I was blown away. I just want to clarify that when I saw her perform I didn't think ‘oh yeah, I could do that’, it was that I could certainly give it a red hot go. It's never too late. That defiance in the face everything we're taught or shown regarding image, aesthetic and sound in contemporary commercial music made me want to give it go.”

Naturally was the second album released by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. At the time it brought some funk, soul and grit back into a music world that had been overrun with some pretty shallow R&B in the previous decade.

“You can certainly hear a shift in the songwriting,” Fotu say of the band’s evolution. “Arrangement and lyrics-wise, you can certainly hear it. Bosco Man AKA Gabriel Roth wrote the whole album... well aside from their cover of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. It's super eclectic with different kinds of grooves and lyrically there are bigger pictures presented. The gist of the kind of relationship/personality/story being told.

“I guess Sharon Jones was kind of like the narrator. She would apply so many different kinds of tones to her voice. The straight-up sensual vibes in You're Gonna Get It, the sass and flirty side in Stranded In Your Love, authoritarian hard-line, it's-my-way-or-get-out in Your Thing Is A Drag. When someone can do all this and move like she does on stage... at her ‘age’... you have to give massive respect to her for that. They had had such a long journey together.

“Daptone was born out of moving from another label (Desco); it would've been a hard slog to stay motivated to write and perform, but what I gather is that Daptone is a pretty tight family. I've always respected the bigger picture of what they did together.”

Jones led a pretty challenging life and became a recognised/professional singer in later years, long after when many would have given up. Does Fotu feel this was intrinsic in her as a performer, the fact that she sung of life?

“Short answer, yes. If you had a voice like that, could perform like that... wouldn't you believe you should be on a stage no matter how old you are? Fuck yes!

“You know when I saw her at the Astor, I met her and chatted to her due to much of the encouragement of my mates. I could barely utter any words at first. So I don't think I'm the right person to really answer this question. But as someone who has watched her and listened to her sooooo much, you see, hear and feel what she is singing about. She became recognised as a singer later in life, but she was always trying to get out there. She had her own party/wedding band, she had been told early on that she was too dark, her voice wasn't right, etc, etc.

“Yep, she sure was a real fighter her whole life. And if her final years of performing were anything to go by, she was trying to rest up as much as she could, but as you'd see in the doco too, Miss Sharon Jones (2015), she was acutely aware that she was also responsible for people in the band whose work was being a Dap-King, or for the Daptone label as a whole. She was the face of Daptone and of course the Dap-Kings.”

What we have now are the music and the memories. And a legacy that continues with Daptone Records.

“Daptone as a label, creates some of the best music in various forms,” Fotu says. “She was a huge part of making that happen. I can't even imagine what the loss would feel like for that family. But the fact it exists, will definitely be representative of Sharon's legacy. As a vocalist, it's everything that I have blah'd on about. Her commitment and conviction on stage; her voice and ability to breathe, sing and dance as she does, that's something as a performer I will always aim to work towards. I remember being three hours deep into a YouTube vortex and seeing a doco about Daptone, and in the back Sharon Jones is packing merch up to be shipped out. I think it was based on the fact that some of Amy Winehouse's tracks from Back To Black were recorded there. I feel like for people who front bands, that's symbolic of what it should be like in a band. You might be a leader or bad ass on stage, but in everything else, you have to have a hand in playing as a team.

“In terms of her pancreatic cancer, it's something like an eight per cent chance of surviving five years. That's hectic. In this day and age, really? It's claimed a lot of lives. Man, that sucks. And the Daptone label have been a big supporter of recommending people to donate in aid of pancreatic cancer research. I know a lot of the survival rate being so low is to do with funding, so the more people give in Sharon's name, the more hope we have in increasing that rate.”

Tickets for Atomic Love: A Sharon Jones Tribute are available via

Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation: