Miss Staton has every reason to be happy and content with her recording career, as she has touched millions of fans with her music. From her first recording, made in the late 1960’s, she has proven time and time again that she is one of those singers who seem at home in almost every genre they try. She started out performing what is generally known as “Southern Soul”, then she moved on to being one of the 70’s “disco queens”. Then she spent 25 years performing mostly gospel music, and finally from 2006 onwards she has reclaimed her status as one of the finest soul music interpreters in the business.

Promotion photo, ca. 1990

Candi Staton was born in Alabama in 1940, and from early childhood she sang with a gospel choir called The Jewell Gospel Trio. This group recorded and released a couple of singles from 1953 to 1963. At the age of 19, Candi married Joe Williams, and by the time she took the first steps into secular music in 1968, she was already a mother of four children.

Signing with Rick Hall, she started recording for the Fame label, chalking up 16 R’n B hits along the way, and also being Grammy nominated twice. Her first hits was the saucy “I’d rather be an old mans sweetheart (Than a young mans fool)”, followed by other hits like “I’m just a prisoner (Of your good lovin’)”, “He called me baby” and the two songs that were Grammy nominees, “Stand by your man” and “In the ghetto”. So-called Southern soul might sound a little country influenced, and some of the songs she recorded during this time did indeed originate as country song. Still, Candi has no trouble making every one of her songs simply drip with soul and emotion. A stand-out track from her early years is “Mr. & Mrs. Untrue” – maybe the best “cheating” song ever committed to vinyl!

Great collection of songs, 1968-73

Candi signed with Warner Brothers in 1974, releasing her first album for that label, simply called “Candi”. From this album, the songs “Six night and a day”, “Here I am again” and “As long as he takes care of home” were all hits, and proved that Candi was still soulful but a bit less “southern” than earlier.Then, in 1976, Candi recorded what is regarded as her major break-through song, and one that still stands as an all-time classic: “Young hearts run free”! The song zoomed to the top of the charts around the world, and it is one of those songs that seem to have it all: It’s instantly recognizable, very catchy, it has a memorable lyric and is sung with a tremendous amount of sincerity! Candi herself at this point was twice divorced and a mother of five, so perhaps she was able to put some of her personal experiences into the song…. An album named after the big hit quickly followed, as did a similar sounding follow-up single, “Run to me”.

Her next album, “Music Speaks Louder Than Words” (1977) is notable for some stunning cover versions; Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway”, The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the music” and Freddy Fender’s “Before the next teardrop fall”. Although having  recently been dubbed “disco queen”, Candi apparently didn’t quite embrace that title – and chose instead to make an album that looked back at her early 70’s style.

She recorded and released 4 more albums in the disco/soul vein during 1978-1982: “House Of Love” (1978) produced the hit “Victim”. The 1979 six tracker “Chance” contains “When you wake up tomorrow”. Next up was 1980’s “Candi Staton”, from this album she saw some chart action with “Halfway to heaven”. It also includes her cover of The Marvelettes “The hunter gets captured by the game”.  Her last album under her WB contract was “Nightlites” (1982). Noted for its sexy cover photo, picturing Candi in a very low-cut lace negligee, looking like she’d rather turn the lights out… She does a very nice version of “Suspicious minds” on this album.

Her last secular album for 25 years. Sexy covershot too!

During early 1983, there were rumours of Candi being “worn out”, either depressed or just ill, some say she was battling alcoholism… Whatever she was dealing with at that time, she certainly chose a different direction; Starting yet another phase of her career, she spent the next 23 years performing gospel and religious music. She made 13 albums of gospel and religious music, and also made a Christmas album in 2000. Her only venture outside gospel during this period was her 1986 collaboration with The Source, “You got the love”, which was a Top 10 Club Hit in the UK and is nowadays regarded as a true classic.

A signed photo from her "religious" period

When Candi made an album called “His Hands” in 2006, it was easy to think it was yet another gospel record, but no! With this album she stepped back into the world of secular music, and proving once again that she is a force to be reckoned with in the soul department! The entire album is just great, and with an added edge in her voice, she makes you believe every syllable of songs like “You never really wanted me”, “When hearts grow cold” and “Running out of love”.

Three years later she made another earthy soul record, “Who’s Hurting Now” (2009), building on the foundation set by “His Hands”. A whole new generation of music lovers had grown up since her 70’s heyday – and these two albums attracted legions of new fans who had never heard her earlier albums. She sinks her teeth into “Dust on my pillow” and “Get your hands dirty”. No coy and cutesy stuff here, this is a mature soul survivor staking her claim and reclaiming her throne!

A recent photo of Candi on stage

So, how does one describe the voice of Candi Staton? A bit deep? Yeah, and with a little coarse edge sometimes… Soulful? Yes, indeed! Candi will put any amount of emotion into a song to make it work, and therefore – much like any opera singer – she is a singing actress! She will convey the meaning of the words in such a way, you’ll never doubt that she’s singing from her own experiences!

Also, she perfectly masters the art of holding back. Unlike full-throttle divas like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, Candi has learned to moderate her singing. It’s in the little pauses, the way she stops for breath, how she handles even a single word in a line, to make her point. Just when you expect her to raise her voice an octave to really get her point through, she does the exact opposite and lowers the next word into a hoarse whisper, and is all the more effective for doing it that way. It is a voice of exquisite beauty, and she uses it to convey every human emotion possible. THAT is the main reason for listening to Candi Staton, no matter what kind of material she sings. She is a story-teller of the first order, and will make you get into what she sings in such a way, you’ll feel it inside when she gets to the punchline…