On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Legendary Gospel, Pop, and R&B recording artist Candi Staton.
Staton was once known as the First Lady of Southern Soul for a string of southern fried Top Ten R&B hits “I'm Just A Prisoner”, “Stand By Your Man”, and “In The Ghetto” she cut at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL during the early '70s and by the end of the decade she was hailed as a disco diva for her danceable 1976 #1 R&B smash "Young Hearts Run Free." Then, for twenty years, she exclusively sang gospel music before launching an Americana career with 2006's critically acclaimed CD "His Hands.” Now, the Alabama native has returned to her Muscle Shoals roots on the 28th album of her six-decade career, "Life Happens.”
Born Canzata Maria Staton in rural Hanceville, Alabama, on March 13, 1940, she 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.
Her 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.
Staton's evergreen sound has musicians lining up to perform with her. Her 2008 collaboration "Love Sweet Sound" with British duo Groove Armada returned her to the Top Ten US Dance charts for the first time since 1980. Currently, she's enjoying a huge international hit with various Top DJ remixes (Larse, Frankie Knuckles, Ashley Beedle and David Penn) of her inspirational tune "Hallelujah Anyway" that hit the pop and dance charts in Belgium, England, Germany and South Africa in 2012.