Sharon Jones does not perform funk and soul songs. She becomes possessed by them, so much so that the 60-year-old vocalist will kick off her heels during her raucous live shows and then stomp along barefoot to the swaggering rhythms of her backing band, the Dap-Kings. Success came late to the gospel-trained South Carolina native, a former wedding singer whose acclaimed albums from the past decade sound like they were beamed in from 1967. Barbara Kopple's new documentary Miss Sharon Jones! traces its dynamic subject's rise to stardom, but its main focus is on Jones's battle with pancreatic cancer, a curveball that delayed her 2014 LP, Give the People What They Want, but did little to dampen her spirit. If the film's darkest moments are sobering and raw, its final scene, featuring footage of the artist's return to the stage, is glorious and triumphant. More than a great diva comeback story, this is a tale of survival. Jones was born to sing, and it is her music that has kept her alive.
Miss Sharon Jones! opens July 29 at IFC Center in NYC.
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