It’s that voice. That sweetly roughened twang of Candi Staton’s has captivated a new generation of music lovers just as it did when she first oooed and ahhed onto the music scene as a soul siren in the `70s. That voice can be heard alongside the voices of Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin in the critically-acclaimed 2013 music documentary “Muscle Shoals” that profiles legendary southern soul producer Rick Hall and the music he christened (such as Staton’s hallowed Fame recordings) in that little Alabama town back in the sixties. The film captures Staton and Hall in the studio recording new southern soul gems for the first time since their Grammy Award nominated collaborations like “In The Ghetto” and “Stand By Your Man” built the foundation for Staton’s career in the seventies.
Meanwhile, rising stars are still sampling Staton’s back catalogue. A sample of that voice distinguishes the American Triple A #1 radio smash “Kandi” by British rock band, One EskimO. The tune adroitly fetches the hook of Staton’s 1971 hit “He Called Me Baby” to nail the delicious groove. “Kandi is beautiful” wrote a Los Angeles Times magazine scribe, “…catchy, ambient pop” wrote a Billboard magazine muse, and The Lefsetz Letter declared it: “A track so in the pocket that your body turned into Gumby, you were bending in places where angles were never created, you were infected with sound.” Christina Aguilera has sampled Staton’s 1972 gem “Best Thing You Ever Had,” blues princess Susan Tedeschi covered “Evidence,” Janiva Magness freshened up “I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)” and Drive By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell and his band The 400 Unit have done a scorching rendition of her 1969 b-side, “Heart On A String.” Ireland’s latest pop star Laura Izibor has hailed Staton as one of her primary vocal influences.
Another Staton staple that has infected a generation is her dance classic “You Got the Love” which was a UK Top Ten hit in 1991, 1997 and again in 2006 with various remixes – surely this is worthy of a Guinness Book of World Records entry? In the last few years, two young British pop stars have paid homage to the song and Staton with their own unique renditions. Florence & the Machine’s re-titled “You’ve Got the Love” was a monster hit throughout Europe in 2011 while the lass Joss Stone has also done an old school funk take of it on her Colour Me Free CD.
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 has hit the pop and dance charts in Belgium, England, Germany and South Africa.
No one could have foreseen Staton becoming an international star in the little farming town of Hanceville, AL where she grew up. Her own musical influences ranged from B.B. King and Ruth Brown to Hank Williams Sr. She first sang in church at the age of four and went pro at twelve when she joined the Jewel Gospel Trio. The group recorded for Nashboro Records and toured with Sam Cooke, C.L. Franklin, and Mahalia Jackson in the 1950s. After high school, she became a housewife until her brother convinced her to return to music. He dared her to go on stage at Birmingham’s 27/28 Club in 1968 when an impromptu take on Aretha’s “Do Right Woman” won her a gig opening for R&B star Clarence Carter.
Carter eventually got her a record deal with Rick Hall’s Fame Records label. Over the next five years, Hall, who had produced Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” and Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman”, and Staton churned out more than a dozen southern soul smashes such as their Grammy-nominated renditions of “Stand By Your Man” and “In the Ghetto.” Staton was crowned the First Lady of Southern Soul just as she was leaving Fame for Warner Bros. and tossed off her tiara to become a disco princess with smash club hits such as 1976’s million-seller “Young Hearts Run Free,” “Victim,” “Honest I Do,” “Nights on Broadway” and “When You Wake Up Tomorrow.”
By 1983, Staton had beaten an alcohol addiction, joined a church, and left pop music. She was a regular on Christian television programs such as “The PTL Club” and gained her own weekly TV program “New Direction” (later renamed “Say Yes”) on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) Network. For the next two decades, she recorded gospel music exclusively, including the Top Ten Grammy nominated Make Me An Instrument (1983) and Sing A Song (1986) Lps. Her gospel classics include “Love Lifted Me,” “Mama,” “The First Face I Want to See,” “Sin Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and the original 1986 R&B styled version of “You Got the Love.”
The a cappella track of “You Got the Love” fell into the hands of DJ Eren (Eren Abdullah), a mixer at the Solaris club in London, who paired it with Jamie Principle’s instrumental “Your Love” track and created the percolating techno version that caught the ears of Jon Truelove, another club DJ. Truelove remixed the song and pushed it all the way to #4 on the British pop chart in 1991. The subsequent “Now Voyager” (1997) and “Shapeshifters New Voyager” (2006) mixes both hit the British Top Ten as well. The success of “You Got the Love” brought Staton back to the musical mainstream in the summer of 1999 with an inspirational British pop cd Outside In that produced three Top 40 UK pop singles and three #1 UK dance hits. Candi has since toured all over Europe and appeared on UK TV shows such as “Later with Jools” “VH-1 Europe” and “Top of the Pops.”
A surprise hit of 2004 was the Honest Jons Candi Staton CD of Staton’s Fame Records recordings. It reached the pop charts in England, France, the Netherlands, Japan, and Germany. There was an array of press ranging from the New York Times to the trendy rock magazine, Blender. In London, it received 5 star eulogies from the prestigious Guardian newspaper. Staton was praised in Paris’ Le Parisien and Elle magazine. Rollingstone named the CD one of the Ten best reissues of the year alongside Bob Dylan and Beatles collections. The jazz magazine, Downbeat, proclaimed the CD a masterpiece. Since then, Staton has released two critically acclaimed southern soul CDs His Hands (2006) and Who’s Hurting Now? (2009). The latter won the Academie du Jazz in Paris’s Best Soul CD of the year in January 2010.
Staton and her fiery band, PUSH, perform Staton’s biggest hits and a few handpicked rarities around the globe every year. Within the last year alone, they’ve toured Australia, Japan and the European continent.