Candi Staton's Disco Classic 'Young Hearts Run Free' Was Inspired by Abusive Husband Who Almost Killed Her (Exclusive)

The singer recounts the story in 'Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution,' airing this June on PBS

Candi Staton is telling the heartbreaking story behind her hit disco classic, "Young Hearts Run Free."

In a PEOPLE exclusive clip of the PBS documentary Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution, the singer, 84, revealed that the track, released in 1976, was inspired by a near-death experience she had at the hands of a "dangerous" ex-husband.

Staton recalled the final night of a stint in Las Vegas opening up for Ray Charles, in which she decided to sit in the audience and watch the headliner's set, angering her unnamed ex, whom she saw looking for her but ignored.

"That's the night when he went completely nuts," the "Nights on Broadway" singer said in the film clip.

"My suite was...way up on the 20th-something floor and he pushed me....was pushing me all the way through the lobby to the elevator," said of the moments after her abuser found her.

<p>PBS</p> Candi Staton on Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution


Candi Staton on Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution

When they got to their room Staton remembered her then-husband saying, "I'm gonna kill you tonight" and adding, "I'll tell you what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna throw you off the balcony."

Staton then said that the man picked her up in his arms and demonstrated how he was holding her over the banister of the hotel suite balcony.

She recalled thinking, "This man is going to kill me tonight," before saving her own life.

"I said, 'You know, you're in this hotel and it's owned by the mafia....we're in Las Vegas now," Staton said in the documentary.

"I said, 'you gotta get out of here. You gotta walk out of here. How are you going to feel with my body splattered at the bottom and my name is on the marquee," she continued, pointing with her hands as she spoke.

"And I said, 'You won't make it out of Vegas,'" she went on, noting that her partner thought about her point and "brought me back in."

<p>Jon Super/Redferns</p> Candi Staton performing in 1970

Jon Super/Redferns

Candi Staton performing in 1970

But according to Staton's memory, he wasn't done threatening her. When she was on her feet he said, "I'll tell you what I'm gonna do, I'm just gonna shoot you."

"I was so tired, I just laid down on the bed. I said, 'Okay, shoot me.' I went to sleep," she told the cameras, adding that he had a gun.

"He had the gun like this," she said pointing. "I said, 'Just shoot me, I won't know it...forget it.'"

At the end of the clip, she said that experience was the inspiration for "Young Hearts Run Free."

The song begins with the lyrics, “What’s the sense in sharing this one and only life/Ending up just another lost and lonely wife."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

<p>Harry Herd/Redferns</p> Candi Staton performing in England in July 2023

Harry Herd/Redferns

Candi Staton performing in England in July 2023

Per a 2021 Dig article, the song's producer David Crawford wrote the song for Stanton after she told him she was struggling to get out of her abusive relationship while they were having lunch together in Los Angeles.

It's unclear if she told him about her night of near-death experiences in Las Vegas at the time, but he reportedly told her he was going to write her an empowerment anthem.

“I’m gonna write you a song that’s gonna last forever," he told his friend per Dig.

The song has since come to inspire groups of people who experience discrimination, like the LGBTQIA community.

Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution airs June 18 on PBS. PBS is also offering a special early streaming to viewers on and the PBS app beginning June 1.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.