Sharon Jones: 'No Chimneys In The Projects'

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When Sharon Jones was a little girl, she used to wonder how Santa could pile toys under her tree when there "ain't no chimneys in the projects." Now, the soul singer has turned her lament into a sensational seasonal song of the same name. The musical setting borrows from the James Brown playbook: dynamic drumming, blasting horns, a minor-key swirl of strings. But unlike Brown's man-first music, Jones' saga is all about the strength and resourcefulness of African-American women.

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Sharon Jones i

The soul sensation turns a seasonal lament into a joyful ode to her mother. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
Sharon Jones

The soul sensation turns a seasonal lament into a joyful ode to her mother.

courtesy of the artist

As a youngster, Jones was bold enough to challenge Christmas dogma about Santa by noting her neighborhood's chimney shortage: "Mama, can you tell me how this can be?" she asks with a tinge of melancholy in her normally assertive voice, sounding for all the world like a budding ghetto existentialist.

Jones' mother restores her faith with the tale of a chimney that appears after the child falls asleep, and along the way, Mom takes her place as the song's true hero. Jones soon turns her rueful declaration into a sort of celebration: "There ain't no chimneys — ho, ho, ho, ho, no, no, no — in the projects!" Because, ultimately, Santa Claus and chimneys are irrelevant when compared to another Christmas benefactor. "Mama," Jones sings, "you are the one."

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