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Candi_young_heartsIt’s an amazing song and is still popular today. Can you remember how it came about?

I was leaving a bad relationship – life happens, of course (laughs) – and didn’t know how to leave him because he was a gangster and had a gangster mentality, you know, and he was threatening to kill me if I left him because he was a pimp: he was pimping off of my music and pimping off of my money and pimping off everything and he didn’t want to lose it. He would always carry a gun. I’ve got a book that’s being written right now and once you hear that you’re going to like it. It’s probably going to be a movie before it’s over. It was the way he was treating me and I would tell Dave. I would say: “David, how in the world can I get away from this man? I’m so scared of him.” I noticed David would write down things and so he came up with ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ based on my story.

Why do you think it’s so popular still today?

It relates to now, like ‘I Will Survive’ (the Gloria Gaynor song). Those songs are everlasting songs because they relate to every generation. And ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ relates to every generation that has been born. Any time you got a song that relates to life – like You Got the Love – it relates. We all feel like it. Look at (comedian, the late) Robin Williams.

Yes, I know, that’s very sad.

(Says lyric from You Got the Love) Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air… That’s what he did. He felt like throwing his hands up in the air. But he didn’t trust the right man to bring him through; he trusted himself. And that’s the wrong man to trust. Had he trusted the Lord he could have seen himself through that depression. I’m not saying depression is easy because I’ve been in it. I’ve done it too. I tried to commit suicide.

Oh gosh, did you?

Yeah. When I left Clarence Carter I tried to commit suicide. I took twenty-four pills, strong ones. I sent all my kids to my mum and I kissed them goodbye because I knew I would never see them again. I sat there that night in the deepest depression that I’ve ever been in in my entire life: it’s like a dark room that you can’t see in and there’s no way out of and there’s no windows and no doors. There was no hope and I would rather have died than live in the mess that I was in. You know Clarence was really mean to me at that time and he set the IRS on me. I didn’t have the money that they were asking me for and I had five kids at that time – his child as well – to take care of and I couldn’t see no way out so I went in and got my doctor friend to give me some pills. I told him I couldn’t sleep and he gave me some pills and I went home and took them.

What happened?

You know what I did, Charles I sat there and was like “oh Lord, I didn’t!” It was like all of a sudden a light came on: you’re going to die. I got scared and I’m sitting there saying to myself “I’m going to die” and I felt a wooziness coming. I saw all my kids faces come before my face and I’m like, “I’m leaving my babies. Who’s going to take care of my children?” I screamed out to God: “oh God, if you’re real, don’t let me die!” And at that moment I got sick as a dog and I threw them all up. I counted them. They hadn’t even started dissolving.

Did that reaffirm your faith?

It did. It really did and I decided that suicide is not for me so I’m never going to try that again. I never think about it. I would never do that again. That’s not the way out. I sat there and I will never forget, Roger Redding, Otis’s brother, was my road manager and he lived in Macon. I was in Atlanta. I kind of got myself together and called Roger. I said you won’t believe what I just tried to do. He said “what did you do, Candi?” I said “I took twenty-four pills.” He said “I’m on my way” and hung up. He was there within an hour. He stayed with me all night. He said: “I’ll just sit here. I don’t trust you. You might do something crazy. Do you want me to take to the hospital? Are you all right?” I said I threw them up. He said “well, I’m gonna stay here until I make sure you wake up.”

That was a good friend wasn’t it?

Yeah, that was a good friend.

Then you tasted success again with ‘Young Hearts Run Free.’ In the disco era, were you comfortable being classed as a disco artist? What are your recollections of that time?

You know what? It was fun! (Laughs). It was dancing, everybody was happy. We used to do the Rick Hall stuff, the old stuff, the blues stuff, the I’m Just a Prisoner stuff, the You Did Me Wrong stuff and we would be drunk and really depressed but in disco you were just happy. Everybody’s dancing. They were looking pretty, and you were flouncing around with your gowns on, your pretty clothes on, and everybody is just loving it. I just love that era. I really did, I mean no lie, I loved it. And I hated to see it go. When the guy burned all our records (kicking off the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement) I thought that was just dumb. What was that about? There was just another genre of music that he got jealous of. It didn’t change the way I felt about it and I know some great songs came out of that.

Candi_suspisiciousIn the early ’80s you left Warner’s and join Sugar Hill and recorded a great version of ‘Suspicious Minds.’ Was Elvis Presley an influence on you?

Yes, he was, he really was. I told you I loved country. He sang a lot what I liked to hear. I loved Elvis – I thought he was too cute (laughs). I loved to see his hair shake when his hips shook. I loved his music, like ‘Suspicious Minds,’ and I loved ‘In the Ghetto.’ It was not really my idea to record ‘In The Ghetto,’ it was Rick Hall’s and Mac Davis’s idea. I was nominated for a Grammy for it. I just loved his gospel stuff. He did some great gospel stuff. I love Elvis. I’m one of the Elvis lovers (laughs).

After that, you recorded exclusively gospel music for many years, didn’t you? Why was that?

Because it was so competitive out here and there was nothing happening here. Nobody seemed to know where music was going. I got so tired of competing for a hit record, competing for radio, competing for promotion, people looking over me and going to somebody else putting their record out when I knew mine was better. I just got tired and things weren’t going right. Nothing was coming through, and I was drinking far too much. I was really, really into the alcohol bottle and I was really there and I thought: you know what? Something’s got to really change. I’d already tried suicide and that wasn’t going to happen. But I could also drink myself to death because that’s another way of suicide, so I knew I had to have a different idea so I started going to church. I hadn’t been in church for oh so long and I would find myself in church every Sunday. The words that I was hearing were uplifting. They were telling me that I was better than that and I could do better than that. So I just kept listening and building my self-esteem back up. And finally I just dropped out altogether. You know what? I couldn’t go in another club and listen to their heckles and cursing and people throwing beer cans because I didn’t sing the right song the right way. I couldn’t go through that chitlin’ circuit again with smoke-filled rooms where you can’t breathe and your voice stays hoarse all the time. I just couldn’t deal with it. So I went back to church with nothing. I dropped everything, cold turkey. But anyway, I got through that era and became very popular in my own way with the TV shows called Say Yes and New Directions. I was very happy bringing in artists and hosting, going from conference to conference. I was never bored and it was great. I loved it until ‘You Got The Love’ came out.

candi_you_got_theHow did it come about because like ‘Young Hearts Run Free,’ that was another record of yours that has led a charmed life, hasn’t it?

Uh-huh. Dick Gregory, who was a friend of mine had a diet commercial. I was still in the church. I was doing a conference in Nassau, Bahamas and he had this guy whose name was Ron High. And he was about 980 something pounds. He was really, really huge. They had flown him over there and they had put him in a chalet near the ocean because it didn’t have a bath tub and so he would go to the ocean every day to bathe. They started feeding him on a special diet that Dick Gregory used to lose weight and it was everything that you needed to live on in that diet. He lost all of his weight and got down to three hundred pounds. They asked me while I was at the conference that they had a song that they wanted me to do and would I be interested in doing it and I said sure, let me hear it. So they flew me to Chicago and I did the song. I didn’t think too much about it. They were doing a video on Ron as he lost weight and so they used that song underneath the video. The guy stopped at three hundred pounds and started eating again and it was like they just had to do away with everything and let everything go and dropped everything. I figured the song was over too and I didn’t think nothing about it. But one of the guys from the project took it to London, just my voice – not the music, just my voice – and so they put my voice on top of Frankie Knuckles’ track. And it fit and that’s how they got their first 500 records. That was a really brilliant idea but after that they tried to hide it from me. You know we had problems with that financial-wise. They tried to hide it from me because they didn’t want me to know that they were using my voice. They made all these records and made all these deals without me. We don’t have the publishing and they took everything from us. They wouldn’t even give us our publishing.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Well, the highlight of my career was just recently when I got inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame. That was a highlight. I’ve had so many moments in my life in the music industry but my biggest highlight is my family, and my God. That’s a high highlight there. Everything else is going to fade away and die but my faith in God is what keeps me.

Any plans for recording after this current album?

Oh my goodness, I’m doing another one already. I’m already doing a gospel album, which is going to be really great, and also doing another album and getting songs now. We’re not stopping. I’m just going to keep putting them out until the Lord takes me home (laughs).