Candi Staton is happy to say there are “a lot of positive messages” on her upcoming album, Unstoppable, which comes out Aug. 24. But her version of Norma Jenkins’ 1976 track “I Fooled You (Didn’t I),” premiering exclusively below, isn’t really one of them.
“I heard that song in a store where I was buying some shoes and loved it and thought, ‘That one needs to be done over’ — not that the original singer did it badly,” the R&B and gospel veteran, a Christian Music Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame member, tells Billboard. The choice, meanwhile, was partly inspired by her acrimonious 2012 divorce from her fifth husband, former Major League baseball star Otis Nixon.
“That one did a number on me emotionally, physically and everything; It just got to the depth of my spirit,” she explains. “The way I left him…I kinda fooled him. He went off on an autograph tour with a new book, Keeping It Real. He was out of town and I moved the whole house out while he was gone, and when he came back from his little trip there was nothing in the house. I had to laugh because I fooled him. All he could ask me when he got back home was, ‘Have you seen my high blood pressure medicine?…'”
The rest of Unstoppable — Staton’s third album with producer Mark Nevers and also featuring the rhythm section of Marcel and Marcus Williams — is more outward-looking and issue oriented, mixing six originals with other covers. Staton takes on Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” while a couple of Staton’s originals, “Revolution of Change” and “Stand Up and Be Counted,” are topical and inspired by the current U.S. political and social climate. “We’re living in tough times now,” Staton says. “This is a NOW album for what we’re going through, kind of what the Staples Singers did in the ’60s. It speaks to what we’re going through now, all over the world, and what we’re after.”
Staton’s mission, however, is to spread hope and inspire action rather than wringing her metaphorical hands over the situation.
“There’s enough bad news. I just wanted to let people know to stand up and be counted and stand up for what they believe in and don’t be bullied down and threatened and all that stuff. We know who we are on the inside, so allow the goodness and boldness and tenaciousness to come out of us and be counted because we are somebody. We have a goal, too. We want to see life progress and want to see people get along and we want to see all races join together in harmony. That’s my personal belief, that we should all just get along.
“People are never going to agree with me on everything, but the one thing we can agree on is we’re human. We have the same problems. We go through the same thing regardless of who we are, so why not go through it together?”
Staton is looking forward to playing shows in support of the set. She’s not talking about a follow-up yet (“Every time I say, ‘I’m never gonna do this again’ and then somebody comes up saying, ‘I got a great idea!'” she notes) but Staton, who’s published two memoirs, is hoping a movie will be made about her life. “I haven’t had any real talks,” Staton, who works with domestic violent victims through her non-profit A Veil of Silence, “but if a screenwriter comes to me and says, ‘I would be willing to film this and make a movie out of this’ or a documentary, I would be willing to say, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ ’cause I have a real story. Tina Turner did I, Tina, but I have four abusive marriages and boyfriends and all that stuff. It would make an interesting, interesting movie.”