Candi Staton – Young Hearts Run Free

What a gloriously uplifting song this is. Except it isn’t. It’s anything but uplifting if you listen to the lyrics. In fact it’s as dark a song as you’ll ever hear. And it’s all autobiographical.

I went to see Candi Staton at the Jazz Cafe about 12 years ago and was blown away, not only by her performance, but by the realisation that there was so much more to this song than I had ever imagined.

She introduced it by telling how it was inspired (if that’s the right word) by the violence she endured from her husband and manager Jimmy James – a man who had told her if she left him he would kill her children and her.

I never knew that before. Nor did I know how impressive her career had been, or how varied it had been.

Staton was born and raised in Alabama, starting out in her teens (with the her sister Maggie) in The Jewel Gospel Trio, before she broke free as a Southern soul stylist with a string of hits for Rick Hall’s legendary Fame Studios.

The earned herself the title First Lady of Southern Soul for her cover versions of country tunes like Stand By Your Man – five years before it was a UK hit for Tammy – and In The Ghetto.

Then back to Gospel after embracing Christianity in the early Eighties and starting a church with another of her six husbands, followed by a detour back into Americana.

And finally her rediscovery as a dance diva with the remix of her 1986 tune You Got The Love – with The Source – and cover versions by Joss Stone and Florence + The Machine.

Anyway, this isn’t where it all began, but it’s where it began for me (even though I wrongly thought for years, probably due to Tony Blackburn here, that her name was pronounced STATT-on).

The song’s genesis was a conversation she had with her producer Dave Crawford over lunch in Los Angeles, when she opened up to him about her abusive marriage. “And he said, ‘You know, I’m gonna write you a song. I’m gonna write you a song that’s gonna last forever.'”

So he did.

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