Charles Bradley – (Brooklyn, New York) — Soul/Funk
At 64 years old, Charles Bradley is the epitome of the American dream, feel-good story. Homeless and poverty-stricken from his early teenage years (in Brooklyn, NY) up until his early 60’s, Charles has endured a life full of constant hardships and tragedy. Between New York, Maine, Canada, California and eventually returning to Brooklyn, he has experienced enough lows in his lifetime for 100 individuals. From being present for his brother’s homicide, to almost passing away himself (due to health issues), along with a handful of other emotionally and physically draining circumstances, it’s clear that his 64 years have been anything but pleasant. Instantly upon becoming familiar with Mr. Bradley and his character, it’s painfully evident that he (inevitably) wears the life-long heartache on his sleeve for the whole World to see.
With so much instability present throughout his existence, the one thing that has remained perpetual for Charles, has been his relentless passion for performing music. For nearly 15 years from 1996 to 2011, while still living quite poorly, Charles performed as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs throughout Brooklyn. Eventually, his reputation as a captivating live performer would get him noticed by a well-regarded funk/soul label in Brooklyn, called Daptone Records. While he would spend occasional time in the studio with some of Daptone’s recording artists, no real progress on an album came until 2011, when they released his first album, No Time for Dreaming, which consisted of a collection of his songs from his 10 years in and out of the studio there. The album ended up being placed by many critics as a top 50 album of 2011.
Fast forward to 2013 and Charles has spent the past two years touring the World, having played over two-hundred shows while visiting over twenty Countries. He was invited to such esteemed festivals as Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo and just recently, Lollapalooza. Last Spring, a documentary called “Soul Of America” chronicling Charles’ whole entire life and musical journey up until this point, was released (Netflix) and has gotten some absolutely amazing reviews (I highly recommend taking an hour and watching). This past April he put out his second album entitled, Victim of Love, which is being promoted on his current tour.
Charles, who has adopted the nickname “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”, is one of those artists that you really only need to listen to once to get a good idea of what he’s all about. His approach is so intensely driven from 60’s & 70’s Soul/Motown, which was the soundtrack to his adolescence. If his music was a cocktail, it would be a strongly poured mixture of James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Wilson Pickett, if you will. Seeing that it is extremely rare for an artist to get their first major break at 62 years old, Charles is embracing it as if it could all be gone tomorrow. For any listener, the genuine gratitude he shows towards his fans and all that have helped him get to this point, is the main ingredient in the recipe that generates such a personable connection to his lyrics. After his performance at Lollapalooza this year, he spent 30 minutes walking around the crowd, giving out hugs and individually thanking any concertgoer that was interested in reciprocating the affection. When you’ve spent a whole entire lifetime being beat down and heartbroken, I’m certain that once your dreams become a reality, being in that moment feels so much better than you ever could have possibly imagined. As Winston Churchill once said, “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.“
Below you will find the trailer for the documentary of his life story, “Soul Of America“, and also the video for his latest single, “Strictly Reserved for You” off his new album (Victim of Love).
Soul Of America Trailer:
Strictly Reserved For You (2013):