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Track By Track- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings Give the People What They Want

by Dean Budnick on January 16, 2014

In the spring of 2013, Daptone Records announced an August release date for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ Give the People What They Want. Shortly afterward, plans were put on hold when Jones was diagnosed with cancer. Following a successful operation and ongoing treatment—the singer’s chemotherapy was slated to conclude at the year’s end—the group announced that they would finally release their next record in mid-January, with a tour set to kick off at New York City’s Beacon Theatre on February 6. Here, Jones discusses each of the songs on the new album.


Retreat!
When we recorded the song last summer, I was just getting sick, not realizing what was going on. When we first did that song, the meaning was that
I’m talking to this guy saying, “I see you comin’, don’t mess with me, play with fire and I’ll burn you up.”

Now that I’ve been sick and I’ve seen the animated video [for the song], “Retreat!” is what I’m telling my cancer. When I look at the video and see the
little wolves running behind me, they’re like the cancer trying to catch me, and I overpower them. I have my strength back, got my mic and I’m like, “Hello, world. Here I come.”


Stranger to My Happiness
No matter what kind of relationship you get into, you feel like a stranger to happiness if it never comes. But now that song has a new meaning. After we recorded “Stanger to My Happiness,” my happiness was that we were going to go on the road and the album was coming out, but then, I had to go away because of my cancer.

Now, I feel like a stranger to my happiness. We did a video for it. I’m bald and I’m standing there with a shiny dress—it has a wedding band theme. I didn’t
want to do the video at first. I look all pale, but you know what? It’s a great video. My happiness is coming back now, too, because I still have some chemo to go but I’m ready to get back out on the road.


We Get Along
This one is talking about how we have to get up, come together and get along. We need to stop all this nonsense and strife—all this racist and racial stuff. We’re all human beings. Why should someone be different? We should just get along.


You’ll Be Lonely
Cheme [Gastelum], my baritone saxophone player, wrote that. I’m with him on the road and I know what he’s going through—“You don’t understand, I can
love you like no one else can. You’re going to be lonely when I’m gone.” I’ve meant that to someone in my life. I said that to plenty of them: “You’re
gonna miss me when I’m gone; you’re gonna be lonely. You’re gonna realize this is the best thing you had.”


Now I See
This one is a trip. This one our drummer Homer [Steinweiss] wrote. It’s about two childhood friends—“I should’ve known since we were kids when you
would take my toys away from me that when we grew up, you would want to take my man away from me.” When I did this song, it reminded me of Tina
Turner when she wanted to go solo, leave Ike and Tina and do rock. I saw Tina Turner when I sang that.


Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making Up and Breaking Up Over Again)
When I got to the studio, all the guys in the band were like, “Sharon, you’re gonna like this song.” But when you hear somebody singing something and
there’s no music you have no idea what they’re singing. All the guys in the band were singing, “Making up and breaking and making and breaking up all over again...” I was like, “What the hell are you all singing?” And then they told me, “When you hear it, you’ll know what we’re talking about; it’s going to be beautiful.” And it is such a pretty song. When I was thinking about how to get into this song, I thought about the late-‘60s/‘70s feel, when I was coming up at that age. I wanted to make the song sound like that.


Get Up and Get Out
When I’m singing a song, I’m telling you a story. Somebody else wrote the story but I fit the story to my life. I have to feel it. It has to flow the way I want it
to flow. That’s one of those songs where I still have to listen to it and get the story down. That one’s just so catchy, though. It reminds me of a church song.


Long Time, Wrong Time
That’s another one Cheme wrote. The groove reminds me almost of a cha-cha-cha. It’s such a bad groove. Just hearing the music at the beginning of the song, the groove, the rhythm—I like it.


People Don’t Get What They Deserve
I’ve listened to the song maybe 100 times and I can sing along with the record, but it’s such a long story. And it tells a story about different people. Believe
it or not, the Dap-Kings have played that instrumental live before. They have been playing it so they know it. So now, it’s just me getting the lyrics down,
getting the story and telling the story. I’ve got to say the right thing for them so that they can answer me. It’s not like some of the songs where I can make up something. But I’ll get it. [Laughs.]


Slow Down, Love
Gabe [Roth] wrote that. It’s a beautiful song. “I love you, sweetie, yes I do…” That’s one I’m looking forward to singing; it’s something nice and mellow. Maybe I’ll pull someone onstage and sing to them.

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