Interview: Candi Staton
The Diva is back! Famous for ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ and the original ‘You’ve Got The Love’, Candi Staton is going to be heading back to the UK for a show or four, so we thought we would get her in for a catch-up session.
Seeing as her songs were so anthemic in their day, we had to ask which was her favourite, and she told us, ‘Well, ‘You’ve Got The Love’ is, of course, a wonderful song: it’s talking about God. My next favourite would be ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, because of how good that song has been to me. It’s kept me working for, gosh we recorded it in ’76, it came out in ’76 – it’s been quite a few years. And the song will not go away. I am so glad I recorded it – it’s one of my favourites. Unfortunately, I didn’t write it or publish it. The only royalties I would get would be from the air plays and the mechanicals [jukebox] and somehow Warner Brothers are getting all of those, but it gives me great outlets in terms of festivals – so I’m getting paid in a lot of other ways and it’s just wonderful’.
[pullquote_left]I am an entertainer and I get out there and do the job that’s put before me[/pullquote_left]Candi’s music is cross-genre, and so we asked her what it was like to jump around like that; ‘I pick up atmospheres, and when I walk into a club, I pick up the club atmosphere and the church atmosphere. It doesn’t matter where I am – I am an entertainer and I get out there and do the job that’s put before me and I love doing whatever because I love music, any genre of music’, she told So So Gay, going on to say ‘I just recorded a duet with a guy by the name of Randy Owen of Alabama. Which is country. And we were in the studio with Rick Hall, and Rick and I did four sides together and we’re still looking for somebody to pick it up and to help us with it, but it’s done and Randy Owen sounds wonderful singing with me and I’m so honoured to have him on the same song with me. He was so gracious to do it for me’.
Many younger music fans will not have heard of Staton, so what should be done in case they read this and question how they know her name. She said, ‘I would just ask them to go up and Google some stuff. I have so much information up on the internet and just go Google me. There are a lot of songs that have been redone, like Florence + the Machine’s version of ‘You’ve Got The Love’ – and if they look deep enough they will find out that it was originally done by me and she copied my version of it. A lot of people like history, and if they were looking for a pioneer within the music industry, they would find out a lot of history about the music industry and about the music business and about me, and others like me’. We have to agree.
[pullquote_right]’Young Hearts Run Free’ and ‘Victim’ were like anthems in the gay clubs[/pullquote_right]On her legions of gay fans, she says ‘They’ve been so faithful to me, all of my days. ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ and ‘Victim’ were like anthems in the gay clubs, and I go and visit them every once in a while. Sometimes I’ll go in and do a show and they love it and they love me, and I appreciate their love for me and I love them too’.
[pullquote_left]Personally, I think that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman, but that’s my personal belief but I don’t condemn others[/pullquote_left]But what about LGBT rights, marriage equality for example? ‘Personally, I think that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman, but that’s my personal belief but I don’t condemn others’, says Staton, explaining that she tries, ‘to stay really, really, in the middle on that one, because I don’t go for the right or the left, I just pray for everybody and love everybody, ’cause we’re all God’s children and we are all created in his image’, finishing by saying, ‘people have to follow their own heart, their own belief system, their own way they like living and the way they wanna do whatever it is they wanna do: I’m not one to get into people’s business’.
The reason she hasn’t been keeping up to date with international developments in LGBT rights is down to personal issues; ‘I’m going through a divorce – again – and I’m so busy trying to get my legal things together and my work together and all that other stuff. I was married to a guy named Otis Nixon and it just ain’t working’. She elaborates; ‘Let’s put it like it is – we could never quite get it together and I was trying to go and be with him and his things, and it was just a little bit too much on me, so, you know what, I don’t know, I’m probably gonna stay single this time’, which we question, this being her fourth divorce, to which she retorts with a laugh; ‘I thought this was gonna be the one! We just didn’t see eye to eye and there’s a whole lotta depth and stuff that’s going on right now that’s not good for me’.
‘I don’t know what I would do right now if it wasn’t for my children. We’re more like sisters and brothers to be honest with you: they give me their undivided attention, they tell me from their heart what they think, and they don’t mind telling me what they think, and so they give me really good advice’, she told us, adding, ‘I’m a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. I tell you, I got more kids than the old woman who lived in the shoe’. Family is important to her, because ‘I was taught that, when I was a child, I was taught to be close, because I was told the only thing you have in this life is your family’, and the trick to maintaining peace, according to the star, is, ‘if we do something wrong to each other, I always insist on apologising… my mother did it, and she just passed that legacy all the way down to us’.
[pullquote_right]The love of the music and the strength of God, that’s what keeps me going[/pullquote_right]And what about her tour? ‘I’m doing a few shows around the UK in May, and I’m going to Australia on 1 April. Then in June, I’m going to Japan and then I’m coming back to the UK… unless something big or something wonderful comes up!’, which we are hoping happens. After almost 60 years in music, she told us; ‘The love of the music and the strength of God, that’s what keeps me going. I will quote what Aretha Franklin said, and I’m in agreement with her, that if it wasn’t for my music I don’t know where I would be today’, she explains, ‘because when I’m giving you the joy and you’re glad and you’re dancing, see, it makes me wanna dance. Every time I hit the stage, you know something? I love it, and unless something happens to my legs or my vocal chords or any other parts of my body, I will be doing this – this is not a job you retire from’.
Other than the tour and the work with Rick Hall, Candi is also working on a book. She explains why; ‘I had a son in the [prison] system for like ten or eleven years and through that I just documented everything that I went through’, adding that she hopes to help mothers and fathers who are facing that particular dilemma in their own lives. ‘Hopefully it will help them get through it’.
As a final message to the gays, she said, ‘just tell the guys I love ‘em! Don’t you ever forget that, and you can’t do nothing about it!’. My golly, how we love her too.