Throughout 2016 we have witnessed the passing of several remarkable musicians and performers, as well as writers, scholars, athletes, politicians and public servants of importance. Some of these people have touched the lives of New Yorkers in particular. I was dearly saddened by the death at age 60 of singer-songwriter Sharon Jones.

I had first heard of Ms. Jones in 2009 and then saw her perform in concert at Brooklyn's Prospect Park. I brought both my daughters, my father and some friends along to see this open-air, summertime show. And it was one of the most remarkable musical performances I had ever seen. Her astounding vocals (rooted in rhythm and blues and gospel) and the way she danced around the stage and spoke to the crowd was something you rarely see. She commanded that stage, and brought people to their feet. My father had never heard her before that show but he was wowed. At the show and afterward I bought some of her albums and told nearly all my friends how great she was.

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She was an unlikely star, and only gained real fame in her 40s and 50s. She was not a typical glamorous woman, but she was a very strong presence and had star power born of hard work, and things clicking into place when she was already a mature person. But she also battled cancer and ultimately she succumbed to "the big C" and strokes in mid-November.

I read online that a memorial service would be held in Brooklyn and open to the general public, so I decided I wanted to attend.    I had never before gone to such a "celebration of life" as the Baptists call it.

I was half an hour late to the service, but walked into the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene, while a women's gospel choir was singing a Christian hymn that I recognized as one that Ms. Jones had recorded for one of her albums. The performance was stellar, and in that Baptist mode that features dramatic, swooping vocals with "call and response" and a drawn out ending. The band was practically on fire as they played as well. Some singers danced with fervor, as did a few members of the audience.

I stayed for about 45 minutes, witnessing a solo song by Ledisi, whose vocals ran up and down a few octaves, and the husky, beautiful singing of Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens. In addition, musicians, a disc jockey and Ms. Jones's niece and grand-niece gave spoken tributes.Her grand-niece choked up as she said "Sharon was a feeling...she was so much energy." And that was true.

I soaked up all the music and moving words, but I also observed all this as a Jewish woman, and here are a few thoughts and comparisons I made.

1. I have visited some Baptist and COGIC churches, where the singing is often highly theatrical and energetic, because some former synagogues in New York City and Newark, New Jersey have become re-purposed as churches. I have visited and toured lost synagogues especially in Harlem and the South Bronx that featured the spirited gospel style of music.

2. Jewish liturgical singing does have a connection to gospel music. Jewish "hazzanut" or "hazanus" and gospel stylings have similarities. When they are at their finest, both styles of music can touch a listener greatly. They "get me in the gut."

3. Baptist churches, as well as some other Christian denominations, feature wonderful musical performances with spirited vocalists as well as bands (typically drums, keyboard, bass guitar and sometimes other instruments). This is much less common in Jewish congregations, and to be honest, I sometimes wish we had this at our services too. The combination of vocals and instrumental music in a worship service just cannot be beat. But then again, sometimes just the plain human voice, solo or duets or choirs, can function in the purest form and help worshipers achieve spiritual heights.

4. I know that some Jews are dismissive of gospel music, or are at least uncomfortable about it (the New Testament topics, in particular). But gospel music often features Old Testament personalities and stories. When I was a little kid, my first exposure to gospel music was the standard "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" and that has more or less been my benchmark gospel song.

5. The memorial or "Life and Legacy" booklet for Sharon Jones's service featured a photograph of her (smiling and robust, as people would want to remember her) and instead of listing her Birth and Death dates, they are listed as "Sunrise" and "Sunset". I have seen this a few times in handouts at memorial services of other churches. Certainly as a Jew I couldn't help but think of the "Fiddler on the Roof" song "Sunrise, Sunset." But this is actually a thoughtful way of describing a person's life: his or her birth/start/sunrise and then the death/end/sunset. The imagery is touching.

By the way, Sharon Jones and her band the Dap-Kings recorded a song "8 Days (of Hanukkah)" which is a soulful pop-holiday tune  that is a worthy listen for this time of year.

I am truly saddened by Sharon Jones's passing. She was a phenomenal talent, a tough and down-to-earth person who spent much of her life in Brooklyn, from early childhood onward. Give her a listen, if you are unfamiliar with her catalogue. If you are already a fan as I am, don't forget her and let her music and ambition, her desire to give fans a worthy show or recording, be an inspiration to you.

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