Soul and gospel great Naomi Shelton passed away last week (2/17) at age 78. The sad news came via her label Daptone, who wrote, "Last week we lost a very, very dear friend, the incredible Naomi Shelton. Her spirit was the brightest and most positive in our family, and she was genuinely full of love. She called us all for our birthdays every single year, asked about our kids and significant others, always had a story to tell, reminding us of all the shenanigans that went down over the years, and was, hands down, the coolest person in the room. We loved her dearly."
Born October 14, 1942 in Midway, Alabama, Naomi got her start in the late-'50s and over the years, Naomi sang funk, soul, country, blues, R&B and anything else she set her mind to. In NYC she fronted The Gospel Queens from Brooklyn, who later became known as Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens. Despite 40+ years in music, Naomi didn't put out an album till the 2000s, though, with Daptone releasing 2009's What Have You Done, My Brother? and 2014's Cold World, both with The Gospel Queens.
A few other Daptone artists have shared tributes. "I had the pleasure of playing in her band Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens under the direction of Cliff Driver for a few years some years ago," wrote Thomas 'TNT' Brenneck of Dunham Records (and Budos Band). "I can’t really put into words what I learned and felt playing music with them. It certainly gave me a foundation and understanding of gospel music and its integral part of soul, funk, country, rock and roll. Everything. It shaped me as a musician and arranger. Just one story for a smile... One time on tour with Naomi, we were stopped at a gas station and I step behind the store to smoke a joint and who do I find but Naomi smoking a cigarette. She says “don’t tell Cliff”. We both cracked up. She was incredible. She was a beacon of light and love. I’m sure she touched everyone who had the pleasure of hearing her sing. Love you Naomi. Rest in Power Queen. ❤️"
Saundra Williams of Daptone's Saun & Starr wrote, "A queen. Naomi Shelton just had a very special way about herself. From how she talked, dressed, made you laugh and touched you. Everything was full of life and intention. I will always remember the glint in her eyes and the corners of her smile that led up into those incredible cheekbones. She was beautiful inside and out. She had a smile that filled you up, if you ever had one directed at you but her voice, her singing, was full of heart and that very same intention that said to me, 'live your best life, enjoy your life and don’t ever forget about your creator - God.' A faith that was unshakable."
Rest in peace, Naomi.