Surviving any one of the following — pancreatic cancer, being a teenage welfare mother, working in the sex industry, drug addiction or the violence of East Los Angeles — is far from easy. Surviving all of them during one lifetime, only to grow into a respected artist with a thriving musical career, seems like a Clark Kent kind of story. No wonder talented blues singer Candye Kane named her latest album Superhero.
"Every obstacle I've ever faced served only to make me stronger and tackle anything. So, right now I feel pretty unbeatable," says the Southern California artist, whose well-earned confidence and booming voice are more than evident on her latest album.
Kane, who will be joining the lineup for Blues Under the Bridge as well as Colorado Springs PrideFest this year, is a perfect fit for the blues world, which has a long legacy of embracing oversized, confidently sexual women with sometimes questionable pasts. As a teenager, she worked as a model and actress in the sex industry in order to provide a better-than-welfare living for her son. But all the while, she was struggling to do what she yearned for most, which was to sing.
"Because of my kind of dysfunctional family life, I found out early I could get positive attention from strangers by singing," she explains. "So I'd sing in the supermarket, sing on the steps of the library, sing wherever I could get attention."
Kane says her past career choices and unapologetic bisexuality contributed to her being dropped from CBS' Epic Records division, which had signed her to her first deal — as a country artist — back in 1986: "Country music was a lot more about image and they wanted me to lose weight and not be so controversial and not talk about my colorful background. Pretty much change everything about myself."
But the irrepressible Kane already had plenty of experience surviving setbacks. Since the early 1990s, she's been sending ripples out across the music industry with her deep, powerful voice, while singing unrepentantly about feminism and her past experiences.
"It is best to be honest with who you are and honest about your decisions ... as long as you're willing to face up to the fact that somebody might disapprove. People disapprove anyway though, no matter what you do."
Before the mainstream blues community started paying attention, Kane says it was the gay community that kept her music career alive. "I'm an outsider too ... and I think that that comes through in the music. I often say that I'm a fat black drag queen trapped in a white woman's body."
Meanwhile, Superhero has also done well for itself. The album scored Kane three nominations at this year's 31st annual Blues Music Awards. "It would be great if it changed the world and created world peace, or if it has some sort of huge impact where it stopped the oil leak in the gulf," she muses. "Wouldn't that be cool, if a CD could do that?
"But as far as blues CDs go, I'm very proud of it."