Charles Bradley (singer)

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Charles Bradley
Charles Bradley 2017.jpg
Charles Bradley in Louisville, KY, 2017
Background information
Birth nameCharles Edward Bradley
Also known asScreaming Eagle Of Soul
Born(1948-11-05)November 5, 1948
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
DiedSeptember 23, 2017(2017-09-23) (aged 68)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Genres Funk, soul, R&B
Years active1965–2017
Labels Daptone Records, Dunham Records
Associated acts

Charles Edward Bradley (November 5, 1948 – September 23, 2017) was an American singer. [1] His performances and recording style were consistent with the revivalist approach of his main label Daptone Records, celebrating the feel of funk and soul music from the 1960s and 1970s. [2] One review said he "echoes the evocative delivery of Otis Redding". [3]

Daptone Records record label

Daptone Records is a funk and soul independent record label based in Brooklyn, New York that is known for Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley.

Otis Redding American singer, songwriter and record producer

Otis Ray Redding Jr. was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. Redding's style of singing gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the genre. His singing style influenced many other soul artists of the 1960s. During his lifetime, his recordings were produced by Stax Records, based in Memphis, Tennessee.


Calling himself "the screaming eagle of soul", Bradley was the subject of the documentary Soul of America which premiered at South by Southwest in 2012. [4]

South by Southwest is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, Texas, United States. It began in 1987, and has continued to grow in both scope and size every year. In 2017, the conference lasted for 10 days with SXSW interactive lasting for five days, music for seven days and film running concurrently for nine days.

Early life

Zelt-Musik-Festival 2016 in Freiburg, Germany Charles Bradley (ZMF 2016) jm05414.jpg
Zelt-Musik-Festival 2016 in Freiburg, Germany

Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida, until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York. [5]

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. [6] Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown's style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. [7]

Apollo Theater theater and music venue in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City

The Apollo Theater is a music hall located at 253 West 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. It is a noted venue for African-American performers, and is the home of Showtime at the Apollo, a nationally syndicated television variety show which showcased new talent, from 1987 to 2008, encompassing 1,093 episodes; the show was rebooted in 2018.

James Brown American singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist

James Joseph Brown was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician, record producer and bandleader. A progenitor of funk music and a major figure of 20th-century music and dance, he is often referred to as the "Godfather of Soul". In a career that lasted 50 years, he influenced the development of several music genres.

When he was fourteen, Bradley ran away from home to escape poor living conditions—his bedroom was in a basement with a sand floor—and lived on the streets during the day and slept nights in subway cars for two years. [8] Later, he enlisted in Job Corps which eventually led him to Bar Harbor, Maine to train as a chef. [9] A co-worker told him he looked like James Brown and asked if he could sing; he was at first shy but then admitted that he could. [ citation needed ] He overcame his stage fright (when a crew member pushed him through the curtains onto the stage) and performed five or six times with a band. His bandmates were later drafted into the Vietnam War, and the act never re-formed. [10] [ not in citation given ]

Job Corps

Job Corps is a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to young men and women ages 16 to 24.

Bar Harbor, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County, Maine, United States. As of the 2010 census, its population is 5,235. Bar Harbor is a popular tourist destination in the Down East region of Maine and home to the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory, and MDI Biological Laboratory. Prior to a catastrophic 1947 fire, the town was a noted summer colony for the wealthy. Bar Harbor is home to the largest parts of Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain, the highest point within twenty-five miles (40 km) of the coastline of the Eastern United States. The town is served by the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which serves year-round direct flights to Boston, Massachusetts.

Bradley worked in Maine as a cook for ten years, and then decided to head west, hitchhiking across the country. [6] He lived in upstate New York, Seattle, Canada and Alaska before settling in California in 1977. [5] [7] There, Bradley worked odd jobs and played small shows for 20 years. [6] He earned extra money doing James Brown performances, where he used such stage names as the Screaming Eagle of Soul, Black Velvet and even James Brown Jr. In 1994 he moved back to Brooklyn after receiving a call from his mother. [11]

Upstate New York region of the U.S. state of New York north of the core of the New York metropolitan area

Upstate New York is the portion of the American state of New York lying north of the New York metropolitan area. The Upstate region includes most of the land area of the state of New York, but a minority of the state's population; it excludes New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, and Long Island, although the precise boundary is debated. Major cities in Upstate New York include Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse.

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 744,955 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area's population stands at 3.94 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Career in music

Black Velvet & initial recordings (1996–2010)

In 1996, Bradley's mother called him and asked him to move back in with her in Brooklyn so she could get to know him. [5] It was there he began making a living moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs under the name "Black Velvet." [12] [13] During this time, Bradley experienced more difficulties, including almost dying in a hospital after having an allergic reaction to penicillin, and, in a separate episode, awaking at his mother's house to a commotion as police and ambulances were arriving to the scene of his brother's murder, just down the road from there. [5]

While performing as "Black Velvet," he was eventually discovered by Gabriel Roth (better known as "Bosco Mann"), a co-founder of Daptone Records. Roth introduced Bradley to Daptone artist and his future producer Tom Brenneck, then the songwriter and guitarist for The Bullets, and later for Menahan Street Band, who invited Bradley to his band's rehearsal. Bradley asked that the band simply perform while he made up lyrics on the spot. After writing several songs, Daptone released some of these initial recordings on vinyl starting in 2002. [14]

No Time for Dreaming & Soul of America (2011–2012)

Bradley performing at Traumzeit-Festival in Duisburg in 2013. Charles Bradley (Traumzeit Festival 2013) IMGP6830 smial wp.jpg
Bradley performing at Traumzeit-Festival in Duisburg in 2013.

Brenneck and Bradley chose ten of these recordings to be released as Bradley's debut album No Time for Dreaming in 2011. [7]

In the spring of 2012, Soul of America, a documentary directed by Poull Brien, debuted at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Poull Brien first met Bradley when he directed the music video for "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)." This feature film told Bradley's story from his childhood in Florida, to the days of homelessness and heartache, then later his gigs as Black Velvet, and finally ended with him touring and recording at Daptone Records. The film included his performance at festivals around the world. [15]

In 2014 Bradley took part in the Hamilton, Ontario Supercrawl event. [16]

Victim of Love & Changes (2013–2016)

Bradley's second album, Victim of Love came out on April 2, 2013. [17] Bradley's third album, Changes was released on April 1, 2016 and featured a cover of the Black Sabbath song, "Changes." [18] In August 2016 he fell ill and canceled a Canadian tour and his appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival July 30 (UK), where the band Darlingside filled in for him. [19]


Bradley died on September 23, 2017 of stomach cancer in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 68. He was surrounded by family and friends, including members of all the bands he worked closely with, according to a press release from his publicist. [20] [21]

Bradley's songs have frequently been sampled by hip hop artists. [22] Bradley provided the singing voice of the Krampus in the American Dad! episode, "Minstrel Krampus". A live Bradley performance appears in the Amazon television show Alpha House (season 1, episode 6 in 2013). [23] The song "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" was featured in the TV series Spotless , as well as the final installment of the CW's 2016 Arrowverse crossover, Legends of Tomorrow S2E7 'Invasion!'. Bradley's song "Dusty Blue" (season 3) and "Changes" (season 6) were featured in the TV series Suits . He is also featured performing "Ain't It A Sin" in the third episode of the Netflix Marvel series Luke Cage . The song "Where Do We Go From Here" appears in the 4th season of the Showtime series Ray Donovan .[ citation needed ] His version of "Changes" is the opening theme of the animated sitcom Big Mouth, and appears in the TV series Big Little Lies . The song "Change For The World" is the opening theme of the TV series Barry .


Studio albums

YearAlbumLabel & Catalog No.
2011 No Time for Dreaming Daptone Records DAP-021 / Dunham DUN-1001
2013 Victim of Love Daptone Records DAP-031 / Dunham DUN-1004
2016 Changes Daptone Records DAP-041 / Dunham DUN-1005
2018 Black Velvet Daptone's Dunham Records


YearTitleCredited toLabel & Catalog No.
2002"Take It As It Come, Pt. 1" / "Take It As It Come, Pt. 2"Charles Bradley and Sugarman & Co. Daptone Records DAP-1005
2004"Now That I'm Gone (Look How You're Crying)" / "Can't Stop Thinking About You"Charles Bradley and the BulletsDaptone Records DAP-1014
2006"This Love Ain't Big Enough For The Two Of Us"Charles Bradley and the BulletsDaptone Records DAP-1021
2007"The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" / "Heartaches And Pain"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band / Charles BradleyDaptone Records DAP-1034 / Dunham DNM-102
2008"The Telephone Song"Charles BradleyDaptone Records DAP-1041 / Dunham DUN-103
2010"No Time For Dreaming" / "Golden Rule"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1055 / Dunham DUN-107
2010"Every Day Is Christmas (When I'm Lovin' You)" / "Mary's Baby"Charles Bradley featuring The Gospel QueensDaptone Records DAP-1058 / Dunham DUN-109
2011"Heart of Gold" / "In You (I Found a Love)"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1059 / Dunham DUN-110
2012"Stay Away" / "Run It Back"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band / Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1065 / Dunham DUN-111
2013"Strictly Reserved For You" / "Let Love Stand A Chance"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1070 / Dunham DUN-113
2013"Confusion" / "Where Do We Go From Here"Charles Bradley & Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1073 / Dunham DUN-114
2013"Changes" / "Ain't It A Sin"Charles Bradley & The Budos Band / Charles Bradley & The BulletsDaptone Records DAP-1076 / Dunham DUN-115
2014"Luv Jones" / "Change, Change, Change"Charles Bradley & LaRose JacksonDaptone Records DAP-1080 / Dunham DUN-117
2016"Change For The World" / "Revelations"Charles Bradley / Menahan Street BandDaptone Records DAP-1095 / Dunham DUN-118

Other appearances

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  1. "Charles Bradley Bio". Official Website. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  2. "No Time For Dreaming: Charles Bradley". Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  3. "Charles Bradley: No Time For Dreaming". Paste Magazine. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  4. "Review of Soul of America". Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Rollo & Grady Interview with Charles Bradley – Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog". May 20, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 "Charles Bradley, at 62, finally putting his own soul on display for the world – Chicago Tribune". April 14, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 Bradley, Charles (February 26, 2011). "Charles Bradley: An Impersonator Finds His Own Voice". NPR. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  8. "Charles Bradley can finally talk about his tragic life". Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  9. Sambides, Nick, Jr. (September 27, 2017). "How a famous soul singer got his start in Maine". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  10. "Live on Soundcheck: Charles Bradley – WNYC Culture". Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  11. Sweeting, Adam (September 24, 2017). "Charles Bradley obituary" . Retrieved September 24, 2017 via
  12. "Charles Bradley played New Year's Eve, playing James Brown tribute as 'Black Velvet' (and other dates)". January 9, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  13. Andy Downing (February 16, 2012). "Soul man Charles Bradley embraces his heartaches and pain at High Noon : 77-square". Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  14. "CHARLES BRADLEY – Daptone Records" . Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  15. "Charles Bradley Film: "Soul of America"". Archived from the original on February 13, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  16. "Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires James St. North, Hamilton ON, September 14". Exclaim!, By Calum Slingerland. September 15, 2014
  17. Sullivan, James (February 21, 2013). "Late Bloomer Charles Bradley Eager to Release Second Soul Album". Rolling Stone . Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  18. Charles Bradley "Changes" on YouTube
  19. "Charles Bradley cancels appearance, tour" . Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  20. Coscarelli, Joe (September 24, 2017). "Charles Bradley, a Late-in-Life Soul Music Star, Dies at 68". The New York Times .
  21. Newman, Jason (September 23, 2017). "Charles Bradley, Acclaimed Soul Singer, Dead at 68". Rolling Stone . ISSN   0035-791X.
  22. "Charles Bradley Music Sampled by Others". WhoSampled. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  23. "Charles Bradley". Retrieved May 25, 2016.