Charles Bradley is a revelation. The Screaming Eagle of Soul is a soul, funk and R&B singer from Daptone Records under sublabel, Dunham Records. This modern day Otis Redding/James Brown  was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1948, and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Bradley spent the majority of his childhood living on those New York streets.

A great story of perseverance, Bradley’s musical career was continually sidetracked throughout his life. He bounced around from Maine, to Canada, Alaska, California; working as a chef over a span of thirty years. At one point, Bradley decided to head back to his hometown of Brooklyn, take a job as a handyman so he could spend more time on music. He started making appearances in local Brooklyn clubs performing James Brown routines under the alter ego, Black Velvet. At  the age of 51 years old, he was finally starting to do his thing, attract an audience and hit his stride as a musical performer. Sadly though, he experienced a major setback as he was peaking musically.

One morning, Charles was awoken in his mother’s house by police sirens. His brother had been shot and killed by his own nephew. Ironically, this very dark time was when Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records came into his life. Roth came across him performing his Black Velvet routine at the Tarheel Lounge (which is now closed) in Bedford Stuyvesant. Roth immediately recognized his raw talent and brought him into the Daptone House of Soul Studios for a session with the Sugarman 3. Eventually, Bradley hooked up with Dunham Records sublabel founder, producer and musician for the Menahan Street Band, Thomas Brenneck, who collaborated with him and encouraged him  to use and incorporate his life-stories into his songwriting. The rest, they say, is Soul History.

BELOW: Charles Bradley, backed by The Menahan Street Band, perform Lovin’ You, Baby and Why Is It So Hard, live from Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin, TX, during KEXP’s broadcast at SXSW. This was recorded March 17, 2011. Captivating live performances almost tainted by the hipster doofuses with their video camera phones. Check out the long shots of the crowd, it almost takes you out of the throwback soul moment and distracts you, but even that annoyance does not take you away because Bradley radiates that much authenticity and is that good. When he howls into the microphone, you can imagine the hundred lives he has lived. It is pure, unadulterated soul.

Charles Bradley


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