Sharon Jones Got Her Start At 40 Years Old (And You Can Too)

Sharon Jones didn’t (really) get going until 40. 

She grew up singing in church, playing talent shows, and even singing backups on songs here and there. But adulthood called and she went to work-work. 

Prison jobs, security jobs, and the occasional bum studio session. 

One day, one backup singing session, nobody else showed up. 

Because that’s the thing about bum sessions.The person putting it on bums your time. Others flake out, because their time is being bummed too, which leaves the door wide open for competition. And over time, you get bummed out because you’re only doing bum sessions for no money with a bunch of flakey people.  

But on this session, when nobody else showed up, a 40-year-old backup singer got a break. 

It was 1996. They were working on the Soul Providers’ album Soul Tequila. And a funky little song with with a Gravediggaz “Constant Elevation” meets Ray Charles’ “Understanding” vibe, it just fit her confident don’t f*** with me energy a little too perfectly.

Great things followed. Amazing things. Beautiful things.

The point is her music career started at 40. And all the work she did before, it still counted. It counted into the life that could produce the work she really got going after 40. 

Everything compounds. All those experiences, all those bum sessions, all that nonsense. 

Start today. Whatever age you are. All the ready is already here, you just have to show up too. 

Here’s “Switchblade” so you can hear where it started. And here’s a much later behind the scenes cut of “Momma Don’t Like My Man” where I swear you can hear what must have been going on at church parties with her friends when she was 10 too. THE HARMONIES. Good god. And they’re just hanging out. This second one is pure magic and one of my favorite Sharon Jones things ever.