Sharon Jones Dies at 60

Soul music has lost a bit of the spark that fires it with the passing of Sharon Jones.

Jones, who publicly fought pancreatic cancer since her diagnosis in 2013, lost her battle to the disease on November 18. She was 60 years old.

It was reported that Jones was surrounded not only by loved ones, but also her musical family — The Dap Kings — a farewell befitting a queen who reigned as the modern soul and funk ringleader that helped steer the Daptone Records label to its current heights.

Onstage Jones was a fireball, mixing equal parts Vegas showgirl moves with gritty, soulful laments that dug deep into the brownstone foundations of her Bed-Stuy upbringing and years working as a corrections officer at Rikers Island. Laying your eyes on her, you were assured that not only should you not mess with this woman, but that she was a truth teller, a singer with a soulful voice that can only be birthed from experience.

Jones never shied away from her upbringing, her experiences as a woman, or her illness. The documentary Miss Sharon Jones! highlighted how her strength carried her through every peak and valley.

Sharon Jones taught us that with adversity comes regal acceptance, and that the love of music can deliver the purest soul of all.

Goodbye, Miss Sharon — you will be greatly missed.


Leonard Cohen, Legendary Singer/Songwriter, Dead at 82

Leonard Cohen, the inimitable singer/songwriter with a subterranean baritone, died November 10 at the age of 82.

A statement on Cohen’s Facebook page called him “one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.” A cause of death has not been released. A memorial honoring the musician will be held in Los Angeles; a date has yet to be announced.

A man of letters (between 1963 and 1966 he published two novels and a collection of poems), the Canadian writer turned to music in the late ‘60s and found like-minded songwriters in the burgeoning New York City folk scene. One kindred spirit, fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell, cast a spotlight on Cohen when she included the hit song “Suzanne” on her 1966 album, In My Life. The cover introduced Cohen to a host of influential songwriters who never swayed in their admiration and often covered his music. In 1994, Jeff Buckley re-introduced the singer to a new audience with his brilliant cover of “Hallelujah,” which Cohen had released 10 years earlier. While Buckley may have enjoyed the most commercial success from his rendition of the soulful dirge, the song elevated Cohen to a new level; it has been estimated “Hallelujah” has been covered by no less than 300 singers.

While Cohen may have never enjoyed the commercial success that a number of his peers did, he was consistently cited throughout his career as being an intuitive interpreter with a masterful literary lyrical style that addressed humankind and plunged the depths of the soul through often haunting ruminations on war, sex, faith, love and loss.

“If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.” — Leonard Cohen

A spectacular performer, fans waited with baited breath for announcements of his tours. And it was a sight to behold: Cohen never faltered in his ability to mesmerize audiences with his halting incantations, uniquely structured arrangements and backing singers that lent a beautiful lushness to his harrowing songs. In between tours and recordings Cohen also continued to write, publishingDeath of a Lady’s Man (1978) and Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs (1993) and more, up through his final publication, the ebook Fifteen Poems in 2012.

Known as a ladies’ man, perhaps best illustrated in his iconic “I’m Your Man,” Cohen surprised many when he gave up everything in 1994 and entered the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside of Los Angeles to immerse himself in the practice of Buddhism; he was ordained a Zen monk in 1996. Cohen also never eschewed his Jewish faith, and held the two were not in conflict since the practice of Buddhism did not worship any deity he was free to embrace the spiritual tenets of each.

leonard-cohen-you-want-it-darker-album-art-2016-billboard-1240After yet another extensive world tour, Cohen returned home and set about working on his 14th album, You Want It Darker, which was released on October 21. The record held some ominous hints that Cohen was winding down, particularly on the track “I’m Leaving the Table” — “I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game,” he sings. The album marked a career that spanned 49 years and further served to cement Cohen as one of the most influential and relevant singer/songwriters of our time.


Hawaii to offer its homeless one-way tickets to Seattle, L.A. or any U.S. city

HONOLULU — Hoping to save taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare costs, Hawaii is going to offer some of the state’s estimated 17,000 homeless a one-way ticket back to the U.S. mainland.

According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii’s legislators voted recently to begin a pilot three-year “return-to-home” program in the state Department of Human Services budget.

To get a ticket home, homeless applicants must complete a background check, be mentally sound and have what the bill calls “sufficient personal hygiene.” An individual can only enroll in the program once.

Supporters of the program say it will allow homeless people to return to their friends and family on the mainland, while critics argue the program could be easily abused and that it’s not adequately funded to do any good.

Lawmakers acknowledge that it’s hardly enough money to run the program for one year, let alone three.

There is no word yet when the free trips will start.

(Originally published at