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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And we are going to leave you today with some serious soul music, raw, funky stuff. Sharon Jones can sing. And if you want evidence, give a listen to her new album, "100 Days, 100 Nights."

Independent producer Derek Rath is listening. He talks with Sharon Jones about hard times and ultimate success.

(Soundbite of song "Nobody's Baby")

Ms. SHARON JONES (Singer): (Singing) Ooh, ooh wee(ph).

DEREK RATH: Sharon Jones is the real deal. Listening to "Nobody's Baby," you might think old school, but it's not. It's just raw Sharon Jones in the here and now.

(Soundbite of "Nobody's Baby")

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Ha, ha, ha, ha, ooh.

RATH: Ms. Jones was born in James Brown's hometown of Augusta, Georgia. And yes, the godfather of soul is one of her major influences. As a child, she sang in church and in her teen years, she tried to get a career started with local bands and talent shows. It never went anywhere.

Ms. JONES: It really hurts to not be able to do something when you want to do it because they tell you, you don't have a look. I was even told to bleach my skin. I was too dark-skinned, I was too short, I was too fat and then I was too old once I get past 20-something.

Ms. JONES: (Singing) I didn't left you here…

RATH: But that didn't stop her.

Ms. JONES: And then the days that came that you say aloud I'm black and I'm proud, that was, I guess, it's only that really made me look in the mirror and said, there's nothing to be feel bad about. This is me and I'm going to die this color. I can't change it.

Ms. JONES: (Singing) …oh, you treated me like a fool, and I know it ain't my fault, babe, oh. You treated me so cruel but you know, I ain't nobody's baby, I ain't nobody's fool, I ain't nobody's baby, catch yourself a new one, oh.

RATH: The '70s found Sharon doing anonymous vocals on some dance tracks, augmenting her income as a prison guard at Riker's Island along with other mundane jobs. But she never lost faith in herself.

(Soundbite of song "When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle")

Ms. JONES: (Singing) For the day will surely come, when the other foot drops.

Unidentified Group: When the other foot drops.

Ms. JONES: (Singing) You gonna pay before all you done.

Unidentified Group: When the other foot drops.

Ms. JONES: (Singing) There won't be no way to run.

Unidentified Group: When the other foot drops.

RATH: Sharon Jones was already 40 when a routine session at a tiny label sparked a solo career. It all started when a friend told her that soul singer Lee Fields was recording there and needed some backup singers.

Ms. JONES: This guy needs three singers to backup this man Lee Fields. And I'm like, why get three singers when I can do all three part of harmony? And once I went in, that was it. And then he just said, look, sing something to this, hear music here and I just thought that, singing some lyrics and next thing you know, I'm in London opening up for Macea(ph) O' Parker.

(Soundbite of song "100 Days, 100 Nights")

Ms. JONES: (Singing) 100 days, 100 nights, in no woman's heart. 100 days, 100 nights in no woman's heart…

RATH: On that tour, fans and critics dubbed her "The Queen of Funk." Her new CD, "100 Days, 100 Nights," continues her association with Daptone Records and its house band, The Dap-Kings. Sharon recalls having doubts when label owner Bosco Mann first introduced her to the musicians.

Ms. JONES: My first thoughts was, when he said, oh, these guys are doing funk, what these little young white boys know about funk. And once I walked in the studio, that was, I think, that was the last time I ever said, that was like, 12 years ago, and I will never ever see that again.

(Soundbite of song "Be Easy")

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Don't you know I want to go for a man down on his knees, no, running him down like a miles after (unintelligible) You got to be metal if you want her affection. You get to too excited as she's off on another direction, oh, so be easy, baby…

RATH: The Dap-Kings are the bedrock of Sharon Jones's sound. Together, they become the hottest live act in the classic soul revue mold, fueled by the gospel (unintelligible) she learned as a child.

Ms. JONES: I'd be singing one again, and I was like, so let me tell you, now, I take off my shoes and I start shouting, you know. Let me take you out to church, this is all I used to do to church and this, you know, so this is what this dance came from. This is where I get this energy.

Ms. JONES: (Singing) I think I'm caller, a little bit louder, yo. Has to be love(ph). Has to be love. Has to be love. Has to be love…

RATH: That energy has brought Sharon a long way. She's toured with the likes of Lou Reid and recently, landed a film role in an upcoming Denzel Washington movie. But she's never lost track of that young girl from Augusta.

Ms. JONES: Well, I feel older, I feel thinner, I feel a little (unintelligible), yes, watch your little, you know. It's just so enjoyable and it's so - I'm able to be myself. I don't have to pretend, you know. I mean, I (unintelligible), yes, I am 51 years old and I am very proud. Each time I perform, that could be my last time, you never know.

(Soundbite of song "Humble Me")

Ms. JONES: (Singing) Humble me, don't let me forget who I am…

RATH: Without major label backing, Sharon Jones ought to be proud of her success. She's earned it the hard way, old school style.

For NPR News, this is Derek Rath.

Ms. JONES: (Singing)…like a man of something better, all than what you made of…

BRAND: Sharon Jones' new album, "100 Days, 100 Nights."

Ms. JONES: (Singing) …for all kinds of fancy things, things you'll never had no…

BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.

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