2:02pm

Mon May 12, 2014
Music Interviews

Candi Staton: This Album Is 'An Anthology Of My Life'

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 5:58 pm

Candi Staton has lived a lot of musical lives. She's been a child gospel singer, a '70s Southern soul hit-maker and then a disco queen. Six decades since she toured the gospel circuit with the Jewell Gospel Trio, Staton has released her 27th album, Life Happens. It includes songs tracked at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., where she'd once recorded "I'm Just a Prisoner."

"I look at this album as an anthology of my life," Staton says. "Each song tells a story of some of things I've endured and gone through and come out smelling like a rose. I thank God for that."

She has endured. Staton recently spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about her struggle with alcoholism, her chance to meet Mahalia Jackson as a young girl, and her personal philosophy: "I'm always ready for anything that comes my way. I'm ready for it." Hear their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

Candi Staton has lived a lot of musical lives. She started out as a child gospel singer. In the early '70s, she was a Southern soul hit-maker out of the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'D RATHER BE LONELY")

CANDI STATON: (Singing) I'd rather be lonely than to lose you...

BLOCK: Candi Staton had another incarnation as a disco queen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUNG HEARTS RUN FREE")

STATON: (Singing) Ooh, young hearts run free. Never be hung up, hung up like my man and me...

BLOCK: There was a club hit on the British rave scene along the way. And now, Candi Staton is out with a new album. It's her 27th. Some of the songs, including this one, were recorded back in Muscle Shoals at Fame Studios.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AIN'T EASY TO LOVE")

STATON: (Singing) I ain't easy to love. Scars have made me black and blue, but I feel a lot less broken every day I spend with you...

BLOCK: The album is called "Life Happens" and Candi Staton joins me now. Welcome to the program.

STATON: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: You know they say, you know, people have second acts. I think with you, you've many, many acts overt he acts over the course of your life.

STATON: Oh, my God. I looked at this album is an anthology of my life. Each song tells a story of some of things that I've endured and gone through and come out smelling like a rose. And I thank God for that.

BLOCK: I hear lot of ache in this voice on this song.

STATON: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I AIN'T EASY TO LOVE")

STATON: (Singing) Oh please, forgive me, darling, when I ain't easy to love...

I like this song because it says I'm not easy to love. You know, a lot of times we go through things and it's like each time you go through hardship it teaches a lesson. And I remember when I was younger, I could endure a lot more than...

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: ...ask my grandkids - a lot more than I do now.

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: My patience is not quite as good as it was back then because you're not easy to love 'cause scars have made you black and blue; especially a lot of abuse that you go through in life.

BLOCK: And you've talked about that before, about a string of abusive relationships you were in, your own alcoholism and depression over the years.

STATON: Right. Right, sometimes you drink to try to forget. And I know I saw my father, you know, drink a lot and when I was little girl. But when it came my turn, I would say I can quit any time. I can have quit any time and I ready. But when I got ready to quit I couldn't. And so, I was hooked for about eight years and I couldn't do a song without it. I felt empty. I felt like I wasn't wearing something I needed to wear.

But I got delivered from that. I called on the Lord and he heard my cry, and delivered me from my pain. So I've been doing really good since then.

BLOCK: I want to ask you about the town where you're from, Hanceville, Alabama. Is that right?

STATON: Yeah, I was born there.

BLOCK: What are your memories of Hanceville?

STATON: I remember the serenity. I remember the quietness at night and the black of night. We could see the stars so clearly. So we'd sit on the porch and we would sing and hum songs to keep ourselves entertained 'cause we had no radio, no TV - none of that. We grew up with the barest of necessities: well water, three of us girls slept in the same bed. We were really down-home country.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Do you remember when you first felt the power of music and of your own voice in particular?

STATON: I was five years old. All we knew, like I said before, we had no radio or anything, so we'd go to church all the time. So I started to learn old hymns and a neighbor of ours heard me singing one day around the house - I was belting it...

BLOCK: Oh, you were a belter at age five?

STATON: Oh, yeah. I was belting it. And...

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: And she said, I am going to tell the pastor and she told the pastor. And I sung the song on that Sunday. Then he started taking us with him, you know, taking my sisters and I - we would harmonize together - and take us with him when he preached away from our home church. And by the time I was 13, I was recording with a group called the Jewell Gospel Trio out of Nashville, Tennessee.

That's where I met Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Staple Singers - everybody that, you know, that was in the gospel music industry at that time. We were big time. We would go all over the country singing with them.

BLOCK: Well, I want to take you back a bit. I want to play an old recording for you. This is you singing with the Jewell Gospel Trio from 1956.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JESUS IS LISTENING")

JEWELL GOSPEL TRIO: (Singing) Oh, Jesus. He's with me. Jesus. He's with me. Jesus. He's with me. Oh, Jesus.

BLOCK: Is that you singing lead there?

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: It is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JESUS IS LISTENING")

JEWELL GOSPEL TRIO: (Singing) Well, I remember. Yeah, I remember it well...

BLOCK: In this day, he was a teenager then. What's it like to hear that now?

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: You know, my voice hasn't changed that much.

BLOCK: You don't think?

STATON: I might not be able to reach those notes.

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: That's fun, listening.

BLOCK: And the feeling is still there. The feeling is the same?

STATON: Yeah, all of the excitement of being out there with all these people. From where we came from in Alabama, just picture it.

BLOCK: Yeah.

STATON: I mean, that was life culture shock to get with all these people that you admired so much all of your life. There you are on the same stage. You know, hey, I was - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I'm trying to imagine this. So you're out there. You're on the gospel circuit with these legends: Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers. Do you have memories of that, of what that was like?

STATON: Oh yeah, vivid memories. I'll never forget that. I remember the first time I met Mahalia. I was so - I mean, I was so enamored. She was such an icon in my eyesight as a little girl. And I was peeping through her keyhole to her dressing room and she had a keyboard player, Marian, her name was. And she said, do you want to meet her? I said yes, ma'am.

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: And so, I went into her room and I got my little head down and I'm smiling. And I'm a little hands together in my little pigtails hanging down. And I said, hi. She said: Hey, sweetheart. How are you? Come here and give me a hug. And I gave her the biggest hug. She just hugged me so tight. And I went outside the door and just started screaming, jumping up and down: I saw Mahalia. I saw Mahalia.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I'm talking with singer Candi Staton. Her new album. Her new album is titled "Life Happens."

And, Miss Staton, you have a warning song on this new album. It's called "Beware, She's After..."

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: ...you know where I'm going in there.

STATON: Beware, girl: "She's After Your Man."

BLOCK: "She's After Your Man."

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: (Singing) Girl, can I get a little bit of wisdom?

BLOCK: And this is a song you wrote, right?

STATON: Yeah, I wrote it.

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: (Singing) Like my sister, Maggie, always says people change but not much.

(Singing) Beware. Beware, she's after your man.

BLOCK: This is a cautionary tale, I think.

STATON: Yes. Yes, it's true.

(LAUGHTER)

STATON: (Singing) Beware. Beware. Beware, she's after your man. Oooh...

BLOCK: I guess it kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it?

STATON: Yeah, does.

BLOCK: Do you figure the title of this album sums up your philosophy pretty much, "Life Happens" you've called it.

STATON: Yeah. Yeah, it does. You can't predict tomorrow. You don't know what's going to happen. You can be ever so happy today and tomorrow you may not have a dime. Life happens. I could've given up. Threw my hands up, you know, by the names these guys call me, by the blows I've taken in my body. I have five children that I had to raise by myself. I could've given up many times.

But I was determined I was never going to give up because greater is he that's in me than he that is in the world. And that's what I live by.

BLOCK: Miss Staton, it's been great to talk to you. Thanks so much.

STATON: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEWARE, SHE'S AFTER YOUR MAN")

STATON: (Singing) I got to get my hands on my emotions. Never, never fall again. My life is turning round and round, it's where my song begins...

BLOCK: Candi Staton's new album is titled "Life Happens."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEWARE, SHE'S AFTER YOUR MAN")

STATON: (Singing) Every direction, can't seem to grab a thing... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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