From ‘Nights on Broadway’ to ‘1963’: Candi Staton recalls 16th St. Baptist bombing

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — Before she became known for R&B, soul and dance music, singer Candi Staton was a musician in an Alabama church. On a Sunday in the middle of September, 1963, she accompanied her church’s minister when he was invited to preach at a Birmingham congregation about 20 miles away.Her plans to play the piano and sing with the choir were interrupted by the news that the nearby 16th Street Baptist Church had been bombed. Sixty years later, she has composed “1963,” a song and soliloquy to mark the tragedy and to name the four people who died at the church that day:
“Four little girls lost their lives/Little Cynthia Wesley/Little Carole RobertsonLittle Denise McNair/And Little Addie Mae Collins/Between the ages of 11 and 14/They never made it that day/Lord, have mercy.”
“Their lives were lost, and people should know their names,” Staton said in a Wednesday (Sept. 13) interview. “They just said ‘four little girls,’ and that could have been anybody.”
Staton, 83, a member of an Atlanta-area Word of Faith church, continues to sing gospel and secular music, including during recent European music festivals, decades after receiving four Grammy nominations. “1963” is set to release on digital platforms on Friday.
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