Staton Has Delivered Plenty Of Ear Candi Over Decades In Music

With four Grammy nominations and four other Hall of Fame inductions already under her belt, Candi Staton seems to be a shoo-in for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Known as the most prestigious honor a musician can earn, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction has eluded Staton, and her patience is running short. She also thinks the state of Georgia should do the right thing and induct her into its Hall of Fame as well. Staton, 80, earned her stripes on the Chitlin’ Circuit and eventually went international with her talents, becoming a huge act in Europe.

She was recently inducted into the SoulMusic Hall of Fame in Europe. Her impressive 30 studio albums are still in heavy rotation, and several of her songs have been covered by a variety of artists. Her ability to tackle several genres has kept her in the game for more than a half-century. When it’s all said and done, Staton just wants to be around to receive her award.

The “Young Hearts Run Free” icon expressed her frustrations with Zenger News about not having yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, her desire to work with Usher and how thankful she is that her songs are so often covered by other artists.

Percy Crawford interviewed Candi Staton for Zenger News.

Zenger News: You are so accomplished and have so many accolades attached to your name. Does one stick out more than the others to you?

Candi Staton: Music of course … I’ve never really received a Grammy, but I’ve been nominated  four times. I have been inducted into three or four Hall of Fames: Alabama Hall of Fame, Carolina Beach Music Awards Hall of Fame, and they just put me in another one over in Europe, the SoulMusic Hall of Fame. And then I’m in the Christian Hall of Fame, so I’m just waiting on Cleveland to call me before I pass on to another life. That’s the big Hall of Fame, the one that makes more sense than everything. I’m not in the Georgia Hall of Fame; they need to go ahead and do that, too.

Percy Crawford interviewed Candi Staton for Zenger News. (Heidi Malone/Zenger)

Zenger: Long overdue.

Staton: Mmm hmm. I don’t know what they waiting on. Maybe for my family to be able to go and take my award and look at it.

Zenger: That’s something I will never understand, and I absolutely cannot stand that.

Staton: I can’t stand it either. Give me my flowers while I’m living.

Zenger: Absolutely. And you’ve earned those flowers, so I don’t understand the holdup. We discussed your days on the Chitlin’ Circuit and how rough that was. Going through the Chitlin’ Circuit and performing in front of segregated audiences, but eventually, you were performing in front of sold-out arenas all over the world in front of mixed audiences. Did you ever think it was realistic to reach that level given the circumstances of the Chitlin’ Circuit?

Staton: That was a breath of fresh air because during those times I was in Las Vegas. I was doing gigs in Las Vegas with Ray Charles. You name it. It was great going from the Chitlin’ Circuit. … See, sometimes the music that you sing, the songs that you put out, puts you in different areas. “Stand By Your Man” put me in an upper-class area. “I’m Just a Prisoner,” that’s Chitlin’ all the way. And “Sweet Feeling,” and all of those songs I did, “Evidence.” Them crying songs, “My baby left me and I’m hanging onto his pants while he goes out the door.” That’s the kind of songs the DJ wanted to play (laughing). That’s what they made famous. “Don’t leave me, baby, please. I’ll die if you do.” All that kind of stuff, they loved that kind of stuff. “Yeah, baby, I know what you talking about. Sing that song for me, girl! You better sing. That’s what I’m talking about. Beg me to stay with you.”

Candi Staton as a young woman. Staton got her start in music on the Chitlin’ Circuit. (Photo courtesy of Candi Staton)

But then, here come Gloria Gaynor. “You can go, walk out the door.” She did it. She broke the glass ceiling, baby. “I Will Survive” without you. So, that gave “Young Hearts Run Free” an open door. I walked right through it. I said, “Thank you, Gloria. I wish I had sang that song, though.” She and I are the best of friends.

Zenger: I bet you couldn’t name the number of times you have performed “Young Hearts Run Free.”

Staton: I wish I had the money. Good Lord, I wish I had $1,000 every time I sung that song. I have sung that song so many times. Even now, they still play the record; it still charts; it’s still high on the playlist, and it’s been out for 50 years.

Zenger: Your longevity has been amazing. I personally think it’s because of your diversity as an artist to be able to fit in so many different genres and make relevant music in each genre.

Staton: Yeah, it is because of that. I have a way about me to go with the times. The things that are happening now, current events. The things that are happening around me. I listen to all kinds of music. I grew up listening to music. With music, the genre changes to something new. Hip-hop came in, I have not done that. I can’t do that because I can’t rap. But every other genre of music, I’ve been able to do. I just credit that to me being aware of what’s going on. I’m not stuck in a musical rut where I can’t do nothing but one thing. However, in the long run it pays off, because look at B.B. King. Look at the rest of those blues players that stuck with blues and never crossed over and did anything else but the blues.

When they did a re-release of my old music over in Europe, they put it out, and all those old blues songs that I used to sing, they didn’t know anything about those. They had no idea that I was that versatile. They only knew “Stand By Your Man,” “Young Hearts Run Free” and “You Got the Love.” They thought that was it with me. But when that record came out, it sold 150,000 albums within three months. The Best Of, and that put me into another level. The album was getting  five stars over there. People were buying it and they were loving the blues music that I did at my shows. They had no idea that I can sing that type of music.  … I went to the Glastonbury Festival twice over in Europe. It’s one of the biggest festivals you can do over there. It’s a giant. And my stage, I drew 60,000 people. I mixed it up with the blues. They wanted to hear all of the old blues type of music, the old stuff, “Sweet Feelings,” “I’m Just a Prisoner” and “I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart.” They loved that stuff. And then I’d end it with “Young Hearts Run Free” and “You Got the Love”and people would be screaming, jumping and stomping screaming “More!”

And then we took the gospel music. We took one of the songs, the band came up with the idea that we should do “Hallelujah Anyway” for the encore. And we made that famous. So, they started remixing that over and over. “You Got the Love” has been remixed about 25 to 30 times. Joss Stone has done it. So many people, everybody has done that song. I even seen them do it; they did it for one of the top shows [“America’s Got Talent”] where you auditioned to be on, with Simon Cowell. This guy was sitting there with his acoustic guitar singing “You Got the Love.” And I remember Cowell saying, “You picked a very good song. That’s a Candi Staton song. Good singer. That’s a Candi Staton song; yet you did it your way.” I said, “Listen at Simon calling my name.” I’m watching this and I’m saying, “Oh my God!” But they say Simon loved my music. I remember when they first started with [American] “Idol,” a lot of the contestants were doing, “Young Hearts Run Free.”

Candi Staton’s biggest hit was her 1976 single “Young Hearts Run Free.” (Photo courtesy of Sean Cokes)

Zenger: That has to be an amazing feeling.

Staton: It is! To sit at home watching TV and watch them do your songs. Some of them did good, and some of them messed it up, but it was OK.

Zenger: Before I let you go, I have to get this answer from you. You have worked with literally everyone during your illustrious career. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with who you would like to work with, or someone who you have worked with and would like to work with again?

Staton: Who would I like to work with? I’ve worked with everybody. Well, let’s see. There are so many new artists coming out. Ariana [Grande] is a little bit too young for me. Probably … Usher. I’ve never done anything with him. I think he would be interesting.

(Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Judith Isacoff)

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