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Candi Staton on how one of her biggest hits helped her through cancer 'hell'

Candi Staton is one of the stars of this year’s Love Supreme festival at Glynde Place, near Lewes. She spoke to KentOnline about her love of performing - and why one of her best-known songs resonates more than ever.

You’ve Got the Love is a song that means a lot of things to a lot of people - but none more so than to the soul legend who sang it.

CANDI STATON,Georgia, 2005sheet 70409 # 26 (343 colour neg scan @ 300dpi) photograph by Alan Messerwww.alanmesser.com (57035810)
CANDI STATON,Georgia, 2005sheet 70409 # 26 (343 colour neg scan @ 300dpi) photograph by Alan Messerwww.alanmesser.com (57035810)

Four years ago Candi Staton was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as she battled her way through gruelling rounds of chemotherapy it was one of her biggest hits that gave her strength.

“Oh, I’ve sung that song walking down hospital corridors more times than I’ve sung it on stage, ” she says.

“It was hell but that song and those lyrics were what helped me get through.”

“Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough, and things go wrong no matter what I do,” she recites over Zoom from her Atlanta home.

“Now and then it seems that life is just too much. But you've got the love I need to see me through.”

And see it through it surely did, with her latest tests coming back clear.

That Candi should win her latest battle should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied her remarkable life story.

She is something of a trailblazer, both for the #MeToo movement and for artists battling for a fair deal from record labels.

Candi cut her teeth in her 20s on the US chitlin’ circuit - the name given to African-American clubs during segregation.

Times were tough, and so were the people running the clubs. “Some owners were good but some were bad - they didn’t want to pay me and there would be fights in the club,” she recalls.

She eventually started carrying a pistol in her handbag as a warning to anyone who thought they might be able to get the better of her.

Her domestic life was just as turbulent - married six times, suffering domestic abuse and sliding into alcoholism - although she has been sober for 39 years and is powered by her devout faith.

Candi’s appearance in Sussex - her first since 2015 - aims to cement an ongoing love affair with UK audiences. She drew an estimated 60,000 people to Glastonbury in 2008 before Covid ended a planned return last year.

“I had the best time at Love Supreme last time, everyone was lovely to me. I love crowds and I love entertaining people and taking them on a journey with me.

“And it’s all ages in the crowd, every generation seems to discover one of my songs. Young Hearts Run Free (where the deceptively upbeat tune masks lyrics telling of heartbreak and despair) - I see women in their 20s singing it now and they know every word.

“Ah, that’s why my mama used to sing it four times a day - “You'll get the baby, but you won't have your man. While he is busy loving every woman that he can…”

Now aged 82, Candi is realistic about how much longer she will continue to perform. “I’m getting older, it has to stop one day - but I’ve been given this gift by God to entertain.”

And looking back on her life, what advice would Candi give to the 1968 version of herself, embarking on her solo career?

“Be kind and be respectful, always take the time to talk to people. I’ve met a lot of acts, and they might only have one hit, but they act like they are too good for other people.

“Be very careful how you treat people as you are climbing that ladder, as it’s the same ladder you are going to be climbing back down again.”

Candy Staton plays Love Supreme on July 2. The site is approximately one hour from Maidstone. Other acts appearing across the weekend include Gregory Porter, TLC, Erykah Badu and Sons of Kemet. For tickets and other information visit lovesupremefestival.com

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