Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Stanton

Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Stanton


Among American listeners, Candi Staton is remembered for a group of classic 1970s recordings in the disco genre. Staton is one of the powerful female vocalists who defined the term “disco diva” and established the contrast between virtuoso vocals and impersonal electronics as a central principle of dance music. For Europeans, who have a track record of spotting the most significant trends in black American music several years before Americans do, she is even more well-known. “Candi Staton has a voice that has tracked the times, that has followed us from Sixties soul to acid house and out again the other side,” observed the British web site Slice.
She was born Canzata Maria Staton in rural Hanceville, Alabama, in the early 1940s, and grew up picking cotton and helping raise farm animals. Staton’s father was an alcoholic who abused her mother, and Staton herself would struggle through abusive relationships at several points in her own life. She began singing in church at the age of four, and a year later had already been selected to participate in a quartet with three other girls. Early on, Staton learned the power her singing could have over an audience. “The crowds would get very emotional,” she was quoted as saying on the Divastation website. “At the time, I didn’t even know why they were crying. Once, I remember, the audience got so emotional, throwing their pocket books at my feet and so on, that I got really scared and ran off to my mother.”
Staton’s parents eventually divorced, and at the age of eleven or twelve she was sent, along with her sister, Maggie, to the Jewel Christian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Again her vocal abilities quickly set her apart from the crowd; the school’s pastor teamed the two sisters with a third girl to form the Jewel Gospel Trio. For Staton, the result was a fabulous musical education. The trio toured with such gospel legends as the Soul Stirrers, the Staple Singers, and the young Aretha Franklin. They recorded several singles on their own for the legendary gospel labels Nashboro and Savoy.

After six years in Nashville and on the road, Staton grew restless in her late teens and left the Jewel trio. She fell into a brief relationship with singer Lou Rawls, and after that ended, she married Joe Williams, by whom she had four children. That marriage, like the marriage of Staton’s mother, turned abusive and ended in divorce, leaving Staton with four mouths to feed and a tough job in a nursing home. Aware of the success other gospel performers had found after turning to pop, Staton, who had been out of the music business for seven years, began appearing in nightclubs.

She recorded a few singles for obscure southern labels, but went nowhere until she entered a talent contest, on a dare from her brother, at a Birmingham, Alabama club in 1968. Her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman” impressed soul star Clarence Carter, who put Staton in touch with his producer, Rick Hall. Hall was the owner of the Fame record label and studios in nearby Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and was a dominant force in southern soul at the time, rivaled only by Memphis’s Stax operation. Carter and Staton married and Staton was signed to Fame. Her career took off in 1969 with a humorous Carter-penned number entitled “I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than a Young Man’s Fool).” Read more…

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