Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Charles Bradley Obituary

Charles Bradley RIP 1948-2017
Charles Bradley RIP 1948-2017 Charles Bradley RIP - Changes Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Elizabeth Weinberg Charles Bradley RIP 1948-2017 Charles Bradley RIP - No Time For Dreaming Charles Bradley RIP - Victim Of Love Charles Bradley RIP - Changes Charles Bradley RIP 1948-2017 Charles Bradley RIP 1948-2017 Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Dave Burke Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Dave Burke Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Dave Burke Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Dave Burke Charles Bradley RIP - Photo: Dave Burke

Commonly referred to as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”, raspy-voiced 68-year-old New Yorker and sensational Soul/Funk/R&B vocalist, Charles Bradley, sadly lost his battle with stomach cancer earlier today.

Diagnosed last year after the discovery of a cancerous tumour in his stomach, Bradley cancelled a series of shows promoting his “Changes” album - vowing to fight “like I’ve fought other obstacles in my life". After undergoing treatment, Bradley was given the all clear earlier this year, but cancer returned again recently, this time spreading to his liver - forcing the Soul star to completely cancel his latest tour.

Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1948, raised up-until-them by his grandmother until the age of eight then moved to live with his mother in Brooklyn, New York. In 1962, at the age of 12, his sister took him to see James Brown at the Apollo. Inspired by this performance, Bradley started imitating The Godfather of Soul’s moves. By his early teens, Bradley had run away from home and spent 2 years living on the streets and in subway cars before, after enlisting in Job Corps (a federal programme for helping underprivileged families), left the city to spend two years in Bar Harbor, Maine. This is where he trained as a chef while simultaneously putting together his own band.

When the band split after being drafted during the Vietnam War, Charles’ next moved to Wassaic, New York. He worked as a chef at a hospital for the mentally ill for nine years, then deciding to head west to pursue his dream. He hitch-hiked across America and spent time in Seattle, Canada and Alaska before eventually settling in California in the mid-Seventies - for over 20 years he made a living as a chef while at the same time, playing small shows in that area.

Charles put his first down-payment on a house and as luck would have it, was suddenly fired from his job of 17 years. In 1996, after losing losing his job, Bradley decide to return home to his family in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Instead of returning to his previous career, Bradley opted to take up work as a handyman, to allow himself the flexibility to pursue his long-time dream of a career in music. A decision which proved successful as the artist found an audience in Brooklyn clubs as a James Brown impersonator, under the alter ego of ‘Black Velvet.'

During one of his shows at the Tarheel Lounge in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighbourhood, the then 62-year-old singer - who had waited 6 decades - finally got his big break, when Gabriel Roth (co-founder of funk/soul revivalist label Daptone Records) watched his performance and, recognising his raw talent, directly brought a then-down-and-out Bradley (at the time moaning the tragic murder of his brother) to Daptone’s famed House Of Soul studios for a session with the label’s act The Sugarman 3.

The resulting track - the 2001-released "Take It As It Comes" - showcased the soul journeyman’s considerable vocal. After meeting another Daptone artist - producer/songwriter/guitarist Thomas ‘Tommy TNT’ Brenneck - the decision was made for Bradley to record his own solo album. This ultimately led to the 2011 release (via Brenneck’s own, Daptone-affiliated Dunham Records) of "No Time For Dreaming," Bradley’s 13-track debut LP.

Accurately described as “a testament to the power of perseverance”, 2011 debut “No Time For Dreaming" represented the culmination of a lifetime of paying dues through such personalised songs as the socially-conscious single "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)"; the swaying, heartfelt ‘Why Is It So Hard’; plus the funky, driving title-track with its message of self-empowerment over complacency. Bradley’s trademark angst, impassioned vocal power and heavy-hearted, autobiographical lyrics with the analogue Sixties/Seventies-influenced grooves of Brooklyn instrumental outfit The Menahan Street Band (also signed to Dunham) prestigiously attaining across-the-board international critical acclaim.

Riveting live performances followed and included; Coachella, Glastonbury Festival and Primavera Sound amongst many others… 2012 would also see the documentary “Charles Bradley: Soul of America” released, the documentary was directed by Poull Brien and followed BradleyÂ’’s extraordinary journey during the electrifying and transformative months leading up to the release of debut album.

His sophomore album, 2013’s soul-searching “Victim Of Love”, saw Bradley emerging from his past heartaches stronger and more confident, overflowing with love to share.

“Changes” was released in 2016, through the Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records. This album featured a “smouldering” cover of the Black Sabbath track of the same name.

Charles Bradley vocal can be found as the singing voice of the Krampus in American Dad TV series. The Amazon television show Alpha House (2013).

His songs; "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" was featured in the TV series Spotless, "Dusty Blue" (3rd Season) and “Changes" (6th season) feature in Suits, TV series. Also, the tracks “Ain't It A Sin" (third episode) of Marvel series, Luke Cage. The song "Where Do We Go From Here" (4th season) of TV series, Ray Donovan. Plus, his songs have been sampled frequently by many hip-hop artists.

His nickname was given to him by one of Otis Redding’s musicians, who saw him “dance like an eagle” on stage and christened him “the screaming Eagle of soul”.

After breaking down in tears at a recent B&S interview, the humble performer revealed how worried he was that his worldwide fame, may only be fleeting. “Yes I’m scared sometimes. I’m scared to be happy because the light is on and I do not want it to go off again. But on that stage and when I am in the studio, I open up my heart and hide nothing. It took a long time coming, believe me.”

Charles Bradley passed away in Brooklyn on September 23, 2017, surrounded by family and friends including members of the bands he worked closely with; Menahan Street Band, His Extraordinaires, Budos Band and the Jimmy Hill Allstarz--his band from his time performing as Black Velvet.

“I thank God just answered my prayer. I ask myself why it took so long, but you can’t question God”.


St. Paul and The Broken Bones (@StP_BrokenBones): RIP Charles Bradley. Thank you for the love and light you brought to so many of us. #screamingeagleofsoul #CharlesBradley

FUN LOVIN' CRIMINALS‏ (@funlovincrims): R.I.P Charles Bradley legend #CharlesBradley

Gilles Peterson‏ (@gillespeterson): RIP the legend Charles Bradley @DaptoneRecords

Si Cranstoun ‏(@SiCranstoun) R.I.P #CharlesBradley so so sad to hear of his passing - what a voice & what a huge loss!!

Antibalas‏ (@Antibalas): RIP to our dear brother Charles Bradley. Your heart was too big for this planet. See you on the other side. We love you.

BadBadNotGood IV ;)‏ (@badbadnotgood): A real low today hearing about the passing of the incredible Charles Bradley. We shall forever remember the amazing shows we played together

Uncle Frank‏ (@UncleFrankBand): Gutted big respect bruva Charles R.I.P #CharlesBradley

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