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HSBG Preview: Charles Bradley 

Wednesday, Sep 30 2015

In 1962, Charles Bradley saw James Brown perform at the Apollo Theater. Almost 50 years later, Bradley's debut album, No Time for Dreaming, was finally released. In the intervening decades, Bradley was a runaway, a James Brown impersonator, and a cook. His life had its share of dark turns: in the 1990s he almost died from an allergic reaction to penicillin and later his brother was gunned down.

Through it all, Bradley remained a soul man, singing where he was welcome and never passing up an opportunity to perform, often under the moniker Black Velvet. It was during one such performance in Brooklyn that Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann) first heard Bradley. Roth brought him to Tommy Brenneck, a member of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, who invited Bradley to band practices before suggesting they lay down some tracks. From their sessions came an album half a century in the making.

Now with two records to his name and an acclaimed documentary (Soul of America) about his life, Bradley is finally sharing his music with the world. His raspy, otherworldly voice tells stories of painful memories and primal love. His songs have caught the ear of mainstream artists as well. "I Believe in Your Love" was sampled by Jay-Z, while Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip sampled "How Long."

But, of course, the only way to experience Bradley is to hear him in the flesh.

Bradley is his own man, but watching him on stage, it doesn't take long to see how effortlessly and spectacularly the 66-year-old from Gainesville, Florida, channels the spirit of James Brown. Bradley's moves aren't as splashy as Brown's, but like his livewire predecessor, Bradley is a visceral performer who charms the audiences into fully investing itself in the music. It is soul incarnate — pure emotion and fiery cries from a man whose life continues to just begin.

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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.


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