Candi Staton: ‘When the promoters tried not to pay I had to get my gun out’


I’m not afraid of anything. I’ve done everything that there is to do. I’ve gone everywhere. I’ve been all over the country, all over the world. I’ve gone on stages. I can talk to presidents. I can talk to anyone. I’m not intimidated, so I know now that I have the confidence that I wish I had when I was 20.

Candi Staton
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
Return to the source … Candi Staton, who has gone from soul and disco to dance-pop but kept her gospel roots.

Between the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ and her new rave tunes, the soul diva even picked up praise from Elvis. In our new series where you ask the questions, this storied musician reveals a few untold yarns

Why do you think that your early 70s classic albums (I’m Just a Prisoner, Stand By Your Man, Candi Staton etc) are less canonised than other ‘classic’ albums of that period by the Stones, the Beatles etc? mesm

Back then I didn’t get on the same chart as those guys because Black artists on smaller labels were put in the R&B charts, not the pop charts. It was musical segregation. To cross over you needed a big label and money behind you. There was a lot of politics. In the UK there was one chart, which is how it should be.

Did you play the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ in the 60s? RedGammon

I am writing a book about it. The first thing they told me was to get a gun. I was in my 20s. I didn’t like guns! Eventually I told them to get me one small enough to fit in my handbag. It wasn’t in my personality to become a scary gangster, but when the promoters tried not to pay I had to get my gun out even though I was shaking in my shoes. Some of them would laugh at me with my little pistol. Others would say: “You don’t have to do that, girl. You’re classy”, and pay me.

How did you feel when Elvis showed his appreciation for your wonderful version of In the Ghetto? MullOtter

Elvis wrote me a note saying: “You did a great job.” I kept it in my kitchen desk for years. Then after I got divorced and moved house I couldn’t find it anywhere. Clarence Carter [Candi’s future second husband] was singing the song on the [studio] floor and [its writer] Mac Davis said: “You know what? I think a woman should sing this song, because it’s about a woman.” They put the lyrics in front of me. I sang it. Then I went back to reading my magazine [laughs].

Did the Bee Gees approach you to record Nights on Broadway? DaveParry

I never met the Bee Gees, but I used to hum it and one day I mentioned to [producer] Arif Mardin that I wanted to do it. He said: “Why don’t we just do it?” The Bee Gees featured it on one of their TV specials and commented that they liked it.

Why has Now You’ve Got The Upper Hand never been rereleased as a single since the Unity seven-inch was withdrawn? Stonecold316

I was living in Birmingham, Alabama, and I had a contract with Unity but wasn’t doing well. Then Clarence Carter introduced me to Rick Hall from Fame Studios and he signed me the night I auditioned. It was my big opportunity, but I was under contract. So I told Unity that I was retiring to bring up my kids and could they tear up the contract? They said: “Well, it’s going to cost you.” They hadn’t even paid me for what I had done! I was freshly divorced, had four children and no money. Clarence gave me $1,500 in cash and that was the end of Unity. I’ve never told anyone that story before. The northern soul people in the UK went wild for that song. The original white label is worth a mint.

I read that Will Oldham wrote His Hands having read your biography and you recorded the song without having met him. Was it a good fit? icyberg

[Producer] Mark Nevers sent me the song and it was quite folky, so we changed it. That song tells a story. Abuse starts by verbals. I always tell women: “Don’t allow them to call you the B-word and don’t let them talk down to you. Once you see red flags, you have to stop them because otherwise it gets worse.” In the song he comes into the room, turns vicious and it turns into gospel because only God’s going to get her released. Mark Nevers told me he played it to Will Oldham and he wept.

In reference to one of my favourite ever tracks of the disco era, were you ever a victim of the very songs you sing? AndrewW

I was in quite a few abusive relationships in the early days. As an artist, you meet people that want to get into the industry and they are looking to spend your money. They come at you with champagne, roses and compliments and then suddenly they change. They say if you leave them they will kill you and come after your children. I’d think: “Maybe I should just kill him.” But my Christian voice would pipe up … Young Hearts Run Free is about getting out.

Who are your favourite singers? SpottedRichard

I love my dear [late] friend Aretha [Franklin] and Gladys [Knight]. I like Alicia Keys. Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable is like my personal life [laughs]. Teddy Pendergrass. Sarah Dash [from LaBelle] was one of my best friends. If I was going through the worst time she would always call me, like she knew. I spoke to her last month and then three days later I saw on Instagram that she’d passed away. I called her number and her sister answered and confirmed it, and I just screamed.

I am a great admirer of your gospel work. Would you consider recording gospel again in the future? RFDIII

Soul music comes from your mind, will and emotions, and the foundation for that is gospel. I’m recording a roots and gospel album at the moment. Really old songs with good lyrics.

What wisdom can you give to help us live well? zebalby

Positive books and good music. I pray a lot and live a simple life. My conscience won’t allow me to sing those “sneak around trying to see each other” songs any more, like Another Man’s Woman, Another Woman’s Man. And I don’t bring the stage home with me. When I go home, I vacuum. I try not to worry, especially since having breast cancer. I told the doctor I didn’t want chemo and he was a tough cookie who told me: “We’re going to get you well.” I had many rounds of chemo and I’m cancer free.

Candi Staton
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn


First lady of southern soul … Staton in 1970, early in an association with Fame Studios that garnered 16 R&B hits.

How has life and experience shaped the way you sing? DonnaFerentes

Singing is like therapy for me. If I’m singing That’s How Strong My Love Is or You Got the Love, I think about times I’ve been in love. For other songs I get kind of mad. It’s gotta be believable.

How does your faith impact on your work? SignificantOther

The spirit of God is always in my singing. In the Bible it says: “Out of my belly shall flow rivers of living waters.” When you sing from your diaphragm, it waters the people listening. That’s why they feel good.

My favourite release this year is You Everything (Remix) by the Producer ft Candi Staton. How involved were you in this release? Orfordness1

I’m not sure I’ve actually heard it! I’ve done about 300 songs and it’s really hard to keep up with what happens to them. I’ve just done vocals for a song by [Two Door Cinema Club dance side-project] Shibashi. My daughter brought it to me. I’m always up for a new challenge and it came out good.

Shibashi’s Open My Eyes (ft Candi Staton) is out on 8 October

Candi Staton

Candi Staton
Candi Staton.jpg
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn

Staton, 2008.
Canzetta Maria Staton

March 13, 1940 (age 81)[1][2][3][4]

  • Singer
  • songwriter
Joe Williams

(m. 1960; div. 1968)

(m. 1970; div. 1973)

Jimmy James

(m. 1974; div. 1977)

John Sussewell

(m. 1980; div. 1998)

(m. 2010; div. 2012)

Henry Hooper

(m. 2017)

Musical career
Years active 1953–present
Associated acts

Canzetta Maria “Candi” Staton (/ˈsttən/, STAY-tən) (born March 13, 1940) is an American singer–songwriter, best known in the United States for her 1970 remake of Tammy Wynette‘s “Stand By Your Man” and her 1976 disco chart-topperYoung Hearts Run Free“. In Europe, Staton’s biggest selling record is the anthemic “You Got the Love” from 1986, released in collaboration with the Source. Staton was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame. Staton is a four-time Grammy Award nominee.


Early life and career

Born in Hanceville, Alabama, Staton and her sister Maggie were sent to Nashville, Tennessee at around age 11 or 12 for school. While attending Jewell Christian Academy, Staton’s vocal abilities were quickly noticed by her peers and the school’s pastor. Amazed by her voice, the pastor paired Staton and her sister with a third girl, Naomi Harrison, and they formed the Jewell Gospel Trio. As teenagers, the group toured the traditional gospel circuit during the 1950s with the Soul Stirrers, C. L. Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. They recorded several sides for Nashbro, Apollo and Savoy Records between 1953 and 1963.[citation needed]

Solo career

Staton onstage at Guilfest 2012.

In 1968, Staton was introduced to Rick Hall by Clarence Carter and launched her solo career as a Southern soul stylist,[9] garnering 16 R&B hits for Rick Hall’s Fame Studios and gaining the title of “First Lady of Southern Soul” for her Grammy-nominated R&B renditions of the songs “Stand by Your Man” and “In the Ghetto“. Staton appeared on the September 23, 1972, edition (Season 2, Episode 1) of Soul Train.

In 1976, Staton began collaborating with producer David Crawford on disco songs such as “Young Hearts Run Free“, which reached No. 1 on the US R&B charts, No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart and went Top 20 on the Pop Hot 100 during the summer of 1976. It was remixed and re-released in 1986, reaching the UK Top 50.[11] Follow up song “Destiny” hit the Top 50 in the UK. and her version of “Nights on Broadway” hit the UK Top 10 in 1977;.[11] In 1978, Staton scored another Top 50 hit in the UK with “Honest I Do Love You”.[11] In 1979 from her album Chance, Staton released the single “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” (co-written by Patrick Adams and Wayne K. Garfield) and the title song “Chance”, a top 20 R&B charted record. Other dance club chart hits included “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” and “Victim”. In 1982, Staton again hit the UK chart with a version of Elvis Presley‘s “Suspicious Minds“.

In 1982, Staton returned to gospel music. Staton and her then-husband, John Sussewell, founded Beracah Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia, with help from Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker‘s PTL Ministries. Staton has since recorded twelve gospel albums, two of which received Grammy Award nominations. Staton appears on the United Nations Register of Entertainers, Actors And Others Who Have Performed in Apartheid South Africa.


In 1991, Staton returned to UK popular charts by lending her vocals to the Source’s British hit, “You Got the Love“. Staton signed with Intersound Records in 1995. In 2000, she released her eleventh album, Here’s a Blessing. In 2004, the British record label Honest Jon’s released a compilation album of her soul work from the late 1960s and early 1970s, the self-titled Candi Staton. Staton followed it up with a secular project in 2006 entitled His Hands, produced by Mark Nevers of Lambchop and with the title track written by Will Oldham. Two of Staton’s children, Cassandra Williams-Hightower (background vocals) and Marcus Williams (drums), joined her on the album. A second studio album for Honest Jon’s, titled Who’s Hurting Now?, appeared in 2009. She and Rick Hall reunited to make a half dozen more tracks for Staton’s 2014 southern soul album, Life Happens. The lead Americana radio single, “I Ain’t Easy to Love“, featured Jason Isbell and John Paul White (formerly of The Civil Wars). The trio performed the track on The Late Show with David Letterman. Staton’s television show New Direction aired on TBN. Staton has also made appearances on the Praise the Lord telecast with the late Paul Crouch and his late wife Jan Crouch, as well as regularly performing on Robert Tilton‘s Success-N-Life show.  In August 2018, Staton released her 30th album, “Unstoppable,” which has been touted as a retro psychedelic R&B project. NPR music journalist, Alison Fensterstock, wrote that it, “Delivers the kind of forthright confidence and soul-girding power that can only be summoned by a grown woman who has learned a thing or two. And Staton has lived many lives. Creatively, the quadruple Grammy nominee and Christian Music Hall of Famer has moved between soul and R&B, gospel, disco and even EDM before returning to her roots as an elder stateswoman.”

Personal life

Staton has been married six times and has five children. Staton first married Joe Williams from 1960 until 1968. Together they have four children: Marcus Williams, Marcel Williams, Terry Williams and Cassandra Williams-Hightower. In 1970, Staton married singer Clarence Carter and together they had one child; Clarence Carter Jr. They divorced in 1973. Staton was married to Jimmy James from 1974 until 1977. Two years after divorcing James, Staton married John Sussewell (who was a drummer for Ashford & Simpson and also Dory Previn‘s sixth album) in 1980, they divorced in 1998 after 18 years of marriage.[15] From 2010 until 2012, Staton was married to former baseball player Otis Nixon. Staton has been married to Henry Hooper since 2017. On October 30, 2018, Staton announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.


Studio albums

  • I’m Just a Prisoner (1970)
  • Stand By Your Man (1971)
  • Candi Staton (1972)
  • Candi (1974)
  • Young Hearts Run Free (1976) UK No. 34
  • Music Speaks Louder Than Words (1977)
  • House of Love (1978)
  • Chance (1979)
  • Candi Staton (1980)
  • Nightlites (1982)
  • Make Me an Instrument (1983)
  • The Anointing (1985)
  • Sing a Song (1986)
  • Love Lifted Me (1988)
  • Stand Up and Be a Witness (1990)
  • Standing on the Promises (1991)
  • I Give You Praise (1993)
  • It’s Time (1995)
  • Cover Me (1997)
  • Outside In (1999)
  • Here’s a Blessing (2000)
  • Christmas in My Heart (2000)
  • Glorify (2001)
  • Proverbs 31 Woman (2002)
  • His Hands (2006)
  • I Will Sing My Praise to You (2008)
  • Who’s Hurting Now? (Release: spring 2009)
  • Life Happens (2014)
  • It’s Time to Be Free (2016)
  • Unstoppable (2018)


  • The best of Candi Staton Featuring Young Hearts Run Free (1995 Warner Archives) Originals (not re-recorded)
  • The Ultimate Gospel Collection (2006)
  • Evidence: The Complete Fame Records Masters (2011) – For the first time ever all 48 of the tracks she made for Rick Hall’s label between 1969 and 1974 are together in one place. 22 have never been on CD before and 12 are previously unreleased.

Singles (non comprehensive)

  • “I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than a Young Man’s Fool) (1969) R&B No. 9 US No. 46
  • “I’m Just a Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)” (1969) R&B No. 13 US No. 56
  • “Sweet Feeling” (1970) R&B No. 5 US No. 60
  • Stand by Your Man” (1970) R&B No. 4 US No. 24
  • “He Called Me Baby” (1971) R&B No. 9 US No. 52
  • In the Ghetto” (1972) R&B No. 12 US No. 48
  • “Do It in the Name of Love” (1973) R&B No. 17 US No. 80
  • “As Long as He Takes Care of Home” (1974) R&B No. 6 US No. 51
  • Young Hearts Run Free” (1976) US No. 20 UK No. 2 R&B No. 1 (1986 re-release No. 47, 1999 re-release #29)
  • “Destiny” (1976) UK No. 41
  • Nights on Broadway” (1977) UK No. 6 R&B No. 16 US No. 102
  • “Honest I Do Love You” (1978) UK No. 48 R&B No. 77
  • “Victim” (1978) R&B No. 17
  • “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” (1979) R&B No. 13
  • Suspicious Minds” (1982) UK No. 31
  • “You Got the Love” (1986) UK No. 95 R&B No. 88
  • You Got the Love” (The Source featuring Candi Staton – 1991) UK No. 4 (1997 re-release UK No. 3 (Now Voyager Mix), 2005 import release UK No. 60, 2006 “You Got the Love (New Voyager Mix)” (featuring Candi Staton – re-release) No. 7 UK)
  • “Love On Love” (1999) UK No. 27
  • “Young Hearts Run Free” (re-recording) (1999) UK No. 29
  • “I Just Can’t Get to Sleep at All” (2000) Energise Records, UK; limited release
  • “Love Sweet Sound” Groove Armada featuring Candi Staton (2007)
  • “Wilder Side” Rasmus Faber & Alf Tumble featuring Candi Staton (2010)
  • “Hallelujah Anyway” (2012)
  • “It’s Your Season (B.W.Ø Remix)” (2016)