Candi Staton

Candi Staton in a 2008 photo.

Candi Staton, the multi talented Disco singer, of Young Hearts Run Free and Victim fame is interviewed by member, Dayna Newman.

Candi Staton interview by member Dayna Newman

Hi Candi, I want to thank you for giving me some of your time today for this interview and happy belated birthday by the way.

Candi Staton: Oh, thank you so much. It was a wonderful day. Each day is such a blessing you know girl.

I know that's right. Okay Candi, Who dubbed you The First Lady of Southern Soul.

Candi Staton: Bill Carpenter did, he gave me that honor.

OK, I'm going to be asking you about him in just a minute. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your version of Stand by Your Man and I wondered if you had ever met Tammy Wynette?

Candi Staton: No, I never got to meet Tammy, I would have loved to have met her though.

How did you meet Dave Crawford, and was it an immediate connection or one that built with time?

Candi Staton: No, I met David Crawford years before we worked together. I used to go over to his studio when he was here. He invited me over to his studio one time and I watched him work. He came up with a couple of songs and he sat down at the piano and I sung for him and he said we gotta get you on that microphone.

Label scan of the Warner Brothers 12 single Looking for Love by Candi Staton.
Label scan of the Warner Brothers 12 single Looking for Love by Candi Staton from 1980.

David Crawford wasn't wrong that's for sure (both laughing).

Candi Staton: I said David, I love your chord changes I love the way you arrange... I love the way you write, but at that particular time it wasn't quite the right time and wouldn't be till several years later. He didn't cut it with Warner Brothers.

Well music was changing, it was going into Disco and he was still southern soul. He was still the southern soul guy, they were changing the music and he came to them with an album that was the same old southern sound and they didn't want it, I mean it sold like thirty thousand copies, which was still good because they got their money back. He also signed a contract stating that if this record didn't do as well as they expected it to do, that I would sign and be solely a Warner Brothers artist and Fame Records would let go of me completely.

The first thing that we did, I don't know how they got in touch with David, but I think David was doing some stuff with someone else at Warner Brothers and they asked David if he would be interested in doing a record with me and David said, 'WOULD I? You've got to be kidding? Of course I would.' So that's how we came to be and he came up with Young Hearts Run Free in that particular session.

Listen to Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton

How was it working with Ray Parker Jr?

Candi Staton: It was absolutely wonderful. This was before Ray became a big star. I loved his positive mental attitude even though at that particular time I was thinking "yeah right." He use to walk into the studio with his guitar and he would be dancing around.

He was fine too girl, Right? This is off the record, No I'm going to publish it anyway (both laughing). Candi - Girl Girl! (which is a way of Candi agreeing just by the way she said GIRL!)

Candi Staton: So he would dance around saying, you're looking at the next superstar and I again was like "right" and saying in my mind go on in there boy and play this record, because after all we had hired him (both laughing again).

He kept saying though and about two years later he was the biggest thing out here.

He blew up; I guess he wasn't playing about all that.

Candi Staton: Right! He was absolutely right.

What about Ollie Brown?

Candi Staton: Ollie was always a sweetheart. He wasn't as outgoing as Ray Parker, but they were always together, they were like two peas in a pod. They shared an apartment together at the time, they were best friends.

He was such a good drummer; I really enjoyed working with both of them.

Album cover to Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton.
Album cover to Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton.

This is s question submitted by a member at named Remicks. He wants to know, was your signature UH HUH from a song you performed and you just ran with it or, was it improvised? Because can't nobody throw out an UH HUH like you Miss Candi.

Candi Staton: (laughing) That's just like my signature like the signature on some Ed Hardy jeans or something. My trademark.

OK! Well that is definitely going to answer his question. I call it a Candi Staton-ism.

I have another question from another member named Zefco, He's so sweet. He wanted me to convey to you that he saw your show in Brighton (UK) about three weeks ago and loved it.

Candi Staton: Oh tell him I said thank you.

I'll do it. He also wanted to know what you thought of the version of You've Got the Love that's overlaid over Frankie Knuckles: Your Love, which has been a big hit in the UK, when you heard it for the first time?

Candi Staton: I didn't understand it, it was too house. At that point I was just a southern soul girl coming out of the southern soul thing.

I was used to Disco, Disco's pretty straight forward. House music is a little different... the beats are all mixed up. You have to listen very carefully to find what beat you're really on...

Listen to You've Got the Love The Source featuring Candi Staton

Yes, because alot of Disco is basically danceable R&B and soul.

Candi Staton: It is, yes. The foot, the bass drum foot is what basically drives Disco, with house instead of the bass drum foot doing everything it's everything doing everything. You find the beat every once in a while and you kind of have to stick with that.

Essentially I started listening to different versions of it, there's a CD in the UK that has eight different versions on it. Eight different remixes of You've Got the Love. When I started doing the shows and tours we went and picked two of the most popular versions and we kind of mixed them together and we do the straight beat and we start out with the synthesizers. I have a guitar that's absolutely fantastic and Marcus his name is Marcus, that's been with me over there for about four-five years now and he does it perfectly. The crowd just goes crazy. Does Zef live in Indianapolis?

Label scan to the Warner Brothers 12 inch single for Victim by Candi Staton.
Label scan to the Warner Brothers 12 inch single for Victim by Candi Staton.

No, he lives over there (UK).

Candi Staton: I had a guy who flew from Indianapolis just to see the show, he said no matter where I was next time he was coming to see me...

Girl, I hope you gave him a hug or something. (laughing)

Candi Staton: Yes, we got him on an interview and my MySpace page.

Zef also wanted to know when you were on stage and you said "you were the real thing. The real voice of southern soul" what that meant and were you saying that someone else wasn't? I don't have to print anything you don't want me to print, you know that.

Candi Staton: Oh please print it because I want to set the record straight. Some of the press might have gotten it wrong because when I walk on stage I say this song is from the seventies and I tease them and say you guys weren't even here in the seventies. They start laughing and I say, well you don't have to worry about it because you're getting the genuine article, you're getting the real thing tonight...

When I say that, it simply means when I'm on stage you are getting 100% Candi Staton not somebody singing Candi Staton stuff. I wasn't disrespecting anyone, just stating that it was ME they were hearing giving my all.

Ok, on to Young Hearts Run Free. What can I say about this song other than it's genius and an anthem to boot. Is it surreal in a way that a song that was written about or inspired by your life is such a phenomenon today?

Candi Staton: I tell you, we all go through the same things in our lives and they pretty much parallel each other. The same road I walked in, somebody else is going to have to walk in. We all walk that same road. One might have a success here or a dead end here, but basically it's the same road. When generation after generation hears this song they can identify with it. It's just a wonderful song and I was so delighted.

I was so delighted to know that the PPL which is like ASCAP and BMI over here they monitor songs 75 of the most played from the last seventy five years and Young Hearts Run Free is number 33.

Quite an accomplishment. How did you feel about Kim Mayzell covering Young Hearts?

Candi Staton: They called me first and asked me, we were trying to negotiate. It was for the soundtrack to Romeo and Juliet. We were trying to get some numbers together and before I knew anything they had given it to her.

Nobody can sing that song like you.

Candi Staton: Nobody's been through it, it's not their life.

Was Victim inspired by events in your life as well?

Candi Staton: Yes, it was another level of Young Hearts Run Free, just saying it in a different way.

Another member, Cory, wanted me to ask you if you realized just how beautiful the song Run to Me is'?

Candi Staton: I'm getting alot of people asking me about Run to Me and Honest I Do also. You can't do three hours on stage, so you can't do every song everyone wants to hear.

Listen to Run to Me by Candi Staton

Girl you would be wore out.

Candi Staton: They would have to carry me out on a stretcher. (Both laughing)

You have to include some of the new songs that you're trying to push, to sell the records. It's very political.

Let's talk about your rendition of Nights on Broadway if we can, it's such a soulful funky track.

Candi Staton: That was the song right after Young Hearts Run Free. David was a very temperamental person. Well Young Hearts Run Free was so massive and the album and the popularity was so big that I – you know – I don't want to talk about people that have gone on, but the truth is the truth...

He was so angry because he was always a frustrated singer, He wanted to sing himself and he never got the kind of accolades he thought he deserved, but quite honestly he was a great producer and a wonderful writer nobody was really drawn to his voice so after that he refused to do the next album.

We had to go to another producer, Chaka Khan's old producer. I can't remember his name right now...

They found him and that's how Nights on Broadway came about. If I had done Victim right after that, it would have been a runaway hit. I would have probably been in the category of say a Tina Turner right now.

Another fan favorite is When You Wake Up Tomorrow. Tell me about that project?

Candi Staton: Oh, we were just hanging out in the hotel room writing songs getting ready for an album... We all came up with that song, The Disco era was at its peak. I was throwing in verses we were trying to keep ourselves in the mix.

So you wrote the song?

Candi Staton: I helped write it, yes.

Let's talk about the Disco era, I have had the pleasure of interviewing, meeting and being friends with so many wonderful artists from that era. I wondered if there were any artists from that era that you had fond memories of working, performing with or just hanging out with?

Candi Staton: Gloria Gaynor, Jackie Moore, Denise Williams, and Martha Wash. The only one I can think of that I was really close with is Gloria. I was never really girlfriend girl friend with the rest.

LOL! Loleatta Holloway told me she would get her money and come out~! She didn't have time for all that so I hear ya.

Candi Staton: (laughing) OK, it was like kiss-kiss see ya later girl, where you going next? Kind of like on the go conversations we were all so busy, but it was different with Gloria, Gloria came down for my daughter's wedding, she stayed at my house or I stayed at her house.

This is one of my staple questions, but was there any venue that you particularly loved performing at because of the energy level or other reasons?

Candi Staton: Oh gosh let's see there were so many of them...

There were a bunch of gay clubs I used to go to, they had the highest energy crowds of anyone-girl please. There will never be a dead moment in there.

And the children, as they are so respectively called, LOVE LOVE LOVE the Divas.

Candi Staton: OOOOH Yes lord, I used to hang out there back in the day even when I wasn't working. They would embrace me, buy me all the drinks I wanted. (both laughing)

One of my friends, Lady Bunny turned me on to your recent track Love Sweet Sound with Groove Armada...

Candi Staton: Oh yeah, really. You like it?

Listen to Love Sweet Sound by Groove Armada featuring Candi Staton

I love it, it's hot.

Candi Staton: It's different, it's still selling out there, it's really selling It's got a great beat.

Groove Armada came to see me and asked if I would be interested in doing some songs with them. I said absolutely! I didn't know they were that big until I went to the Love Festival. They have a Love Festival that they do in London every year and boy there was over 30.000 people.

The stages nowadays are very technical, it looks like a studio. So much computer work up there it's so computer driven.

Who were your musical inspirations growing up?

Candi Staton: Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Sam Cooke was one of my favorite artists–I Love Sam. A lot of the gospel people as you know I got my start in gospel.

Album cover for Chance by Candi Staton.
Album cover for Chance by Candi Staton.

Girl, let me tell you every time I hear your song Mama, It makes me cry. Because ain't nobody gonna love you like your mama. I know I'm not speaking or writing proper English, but saying it this way put's much punch into it. You must really have a very special relationship with your mother.

Candi Staton: Yes, What really brought us close is what usually tears mother and daughter apart. I got pregnant. I could see all the love of God come through her during my time of need. She didn't kick me out and say you have ruined your life and all that stuff, She sat me down and she said you made a mistake, but you're not the only one who has ever made a mistake.

You go on ahead and have that baby and you get up and you resume your life this is just the beginning of your life your just 18. She said, I love you and hugged me. I cried, we were washing greens that Sunday I never will forget it. I was crying in my greens...

It's going to give them greens some extra flavor girl. (both laughing)

Candi Staton: She said, your gonna be fine don't let nobody make you feel ashamed. People would blast you, ridicule you and were so hateful. I will never forget her for that.

I know how hateful people can be, but you overcame and look what you have achieved. How spiritually rewarding is it to know that everything that you have tackled you have mastered?

Candi Staton: You know what, I give all the glory to God. He had to put that inside of me. I don't think there's anything too hard for me to take on and if people don't like it, that's ok as long as I'm satisfied with it and it has fulfilled something inside of me. It's just something that God brings out when you hear the music. A creative feel you get from the music.

Candi again thank you so much it has been an absolute pleasure and so much fun.

Candi Staton: Thank you so much for your time as well baby.

–The End

Recommended Listening & Related Candi Staton Links

Listen to When You Wake Up Tomorrow by Candi Staton

Listen to Victim by Candi Staton


About the author:
is a disco enthusiast and former booking agent. She is also the creator of DVA Music, has done graphic work for many old school artists, and proud member of A big thank you to Dayna for all her hard work and willingness to conduct and share this wonderful interview with Candi Staton.