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Where many of music’s most inspiring figures have crashed and burned under the weight of time and success, one woman has remained a vital part of modern music since exploding into the industry with her unique voice in the 1960’s. Whilst maintain her status as the haunting voice of Soul music and the ongoing spirit of gospel music, she has continued to fuel House music with an essential energy and passion that only she is capable of producing. The road has not been an easy one, but Dan Carter is happy to report that Candi Staton is still the indispensible voice of Dance music.
July will see the queen of Disco proudly return to the UK to bless Defected Live at the Ministry of Sound alongside legendary peers Barbara Tucker and Julie Mcknight in a celebration of the pioneering House label and the sensational voices that have fuelled its music over the years. Staton said: “The line-up for Defected live is very special! I love it and I am honoured to be a part of the line-up with everyone else. I don’t take anything for granted these days, so many of my peers are now gone and so I feel privileged that I can still play to the crowds at these great events.”
The journey towards this milestone event for Staton is one that tells a story of love, loss, revival and an on-going commitment to her indispensible calling. The potential for Staton’s voice became apparent during her childhood as the congregation of her church began to embrace her unique and vibrant sound. “I was forced on stage in front of the whole congregation at our church to sing one day and there was a great reaction from everyone,” she explained. “It was a weird experience because even though I knew all these people, for them to react the way they did means that you must be good!” This recognition urged the young Staton to seek further applause from outside of the local community, convinced that her voice had the potential to touch people outside of her hometown of Hanceville, Alabama.
After her church debut Staton embarked upon an incredible musical journey that is yet to show any signs of an end. From the timeless sounds of sixties Soul to the innovative grooves of Disco and the traditional values of Gospel, Staton’s discography has known no limits. She explained: “Through my career I guess I have settled with four genres: Country, Gospel, R&B and Disco. I settled somewhere in the middle and I have enjoyed contributing to all of these genres, so it is always hard to pick a favourite sound as they all bring something beautiful to music.”
In refusing to be tied down to one specific sound, Staton remains a witness to the fascinating development of music that has allowed her to maintain her current legendary stance in modern music. “The evolution of the music is great,” she said. “Sometimes we get discouraged to go with the flow but it is infectious, so much of the music I have made is now a part of me and it just keeps evolving and as a result so do I.” This was made ever more apparent when Staton made the crossover from Rhythm and Blues to Disco with her No.2 UK hit ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, the track which unarguably set the diva’s historical presence within Dance music.
Where the worlds most influential characters have been tested by the strains of life and fame, Candi Staton is no exception. After a series of uneasy marriages and a battle with alcoholism, the rising star was left to wonder if she would ever make it through the troubled times that unfolded from her career. By 1982, Staton was a born again Christian intent on channelling the positivity of the religion through her life and music. “It has been a very colourful journey from childhood to now,” she explained. “I have had a lot of bumps and turns, a couple of complete U-turns and all kinds of ups and downs, but through it all I have accomplished things beyond my wildest dreams thanks to an undying determination.”
Under the circumstances surrounding her rise to fame, the best of characters would have crumbled and quit. After turning to the church for guidance and advice, the inspirational singer was able to establish herself as an undying believer in the new road she was taking and the music she would continue to produce. She explained: “I am never going to quit. Sometimes I thought that I should and god knows I really did think about it. I have been able to sit back and say ‘Lord, how did I get over this?’. It really has been quite a journey and despite all the upset and mistakes I thank god that I have accomplished so much.”
The ‘never-say-die’ attitude adopted by Staton has seen Soul music’s living legend prosper to a degree that many could only dream of, making the transition from cover singer to hit-writer over a wealth of genres. She explained: “Earlier in my career I used to get jealous of the people who were prominently writing their own music at the same time as I was singing, there was such a high standard that I never thought I could go far as a writer. At the time I wasn’t bold enough to but that changed and now I do a lot of writing for people. I am now into writing for DJs and producers making dance music and I am loving it.”
Candi’s real induction into dance music came in 1991 with her career changing collaboration with The Source ‘You’ve Got The Love’. For Staton, this was a fresh direction for her music that would allow the legacy of her powerful voice to transcend the pressure of time. She explained: “This was a different direction for me due to the source of the music. I had never heard or done a song like that before and so it was a bit of a risk but at the same time it made sense. I originally wrote ‘You’ve Got The Love’ for a diet commercial that never happened and then it was snatched up and used by The Source.”
What followed was an epic club offering that would see three spots in the UK top 10 in 1991, 1997 and again in 2006. Staton said: “I think I should be in the Guiness Book of Records for that, as to be in the UK top 10 three times with one song is very rare.” After a 2009 remake by the rising Indie act Florence and the Machine, it is clear the songs original resonance still remains. “People still love it and as a band we have now settled into a new mix of all of the versions which was clearly a good move to make as people go crazy when we play it,” she said, adding: “It is a great feeling to know people still appreciate that work.”
This epic entry into dance music was the first of a spat of ambitious and memorable Dance collaborations for Staton. In 2007 she teamed up with the legendary UK pioneers of electronic music Groove Armada for two tracks on their Soundboy Rock album ‘Paris’ and the single ‘Love Sweet Sound’. Staton explained: “I met Groove Armada when I was playing at the Jazz Café in London in 2006. They came along to watch me and I didn’t even know they where in the crowd that night. They loved the way we did things and asked if I would work with them. If I’m honest at the time I was asking myself ‘Who are these guys?’, as I was yet to hear what they did.” Candi returned to America and shortly received two demos from the British duo that the singer automatically connected with. She explained: “The music really spoke to me. When I hear music I see words and that is how I put down the vocals. I used their track and they loved it and then three weeks later I travelled to Europe to do it live in their studio. They are truly wonderful guys and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them.”
After a brief leap back to her Gospel roots for ‘I Will Sing My Praise To You’ in 2008 and the emotional 2009 account ‘Who’s Hurting Now’, Staton was happy to engage once again in Dance music with her collaboration with Swedish producers Rasmus Faber and Alf Tumble for the 2010 club anthem ‘Wilder Side’. Despite a slow start in engaging with the Swedish duos epic dance floor filler, Staton found an unexpected connection to this offering when she feared she was unable to. She said: “The guys heard my Groove Armada work and thought it would fit with the work they where doing, so they got in touch. At first I really couldn’t get into it, I just wasn’t seeing the vocals and the music wasn’t saying anything to me, so I dropped it for a while.”
It was several months before Candi would unexpectedly find the direction she needed for what would shape up to be one of 2010’s most celebrated House releases that was eventually snatched up by the Dance music powerhouse of Defected Records. Candi explained: “One day I was at the mall and a couple of lines just got stuck in my head, so I dropped everything I was doing, sat down and started to write it. I got home and went over the track again and suddenly it just worked!”
After the success of ‘Wilder Side’, Staton is now excited to return to the UK and celebrate four decades of inspirational music that is showing no sign of drying up. “I am always excited to play the UK,” she said, “The warmth and loyalty of the fans over there is just amazing. People have always bought my records and never stopped wanting me back. The first time I came over the tour sold out and they just seem to keep doing so, it’s a great feeling to still feel so appreciated away from the states.”
Throughout this journey, Staton is humbled to have remained relevant to modern music after nearly 50 years of ups and downs and a career that has seen her conquer some of the industry’s greatest movements. She explained: “I feel privileged and blessed to still be relevant to music after such a lengthy career and it is always something to be applauded. I never thought I would last as long as I did but then when EMI signed me they were droppings acts like Chaka Kahn, so I am very lucky to have been able to maintain this career and remain a part of music.”
The times may chance, trends will come and go, but one thing is clear: Candi Staton has remained a vital element of popular music. Where the hands of time have seen the end of a host of legends within music, Staton’s legacy is a work still in progress. If every truly inspirational artist could adopt the passion, belief and persistence that Candi has put into her enthralling career then all music would remain an immortal source of emotional release, untainted by an industry severely lacking this passion for life and music.