Charles Bradley (singer)

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Charles Bradley
Bradley at the 2011 Jazz Fest Wien
Bradley at the 2011 Jazz Fest Wien
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.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active1965–2017

Charles Edward Bradley (November 5, 1948 – September 23, 2017) was an American singer.[2] After years of obscurity and a part-time music career, Bradley came to prominence in his early 50s. 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.[3] One review said he "echoes the evocative delivery of Otis Redding".[4]

Called "The Screaming Eagle of Soul," Bradley was the subject of the documentary Soul of America which premiered at South by Southwest in 2012.[5]

Early life[edit]

Zelt-Musik-Festival 2016 in Freiburg, Germany

Abandoned by his mother at eight months of age, Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida. At age eight, his mother returned, and took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.[6]

In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform.[7] Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown's style of singing and stage mannerisms at home.[8]

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.[9] Later, he enlisted in Job Corps which eventually led him to Bar Harbor, Maine to train as a chef.[10] 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.[11][failed verification]

Bradley worked in Maine as a cook for ten years, and then decided to head west, hitchhiking across the country.[7] He lived in upstate New York, Seattle, Canada and Alaska before settling in California in 1977.[6][8] There, Bradley worked odd jobs and played small shows for 20 years.[7] 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.

Career in music[edit]

Black Velvet and initial recordings (1996–2010)[edit]

In the mid-1990s, Bradley's mother called him and asked him to move back in with her in Brooklyn so she could get to know him.[6][12] It was there he began making a living moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs under the name "Black Velvet".[13][14] 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.[6]

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 his future producer, Daptone artist 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.[15]

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

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.[8]

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.[16]

In 2014 Bradley took part in the Hamilton, Ontario Supercrawl event.[17]

Victim of Love & Changes (2013–2016)[edit]

Bradley's second album, Victim of Love came out on April 2, 2013.[18] Bradley's third album, Changes, was released on April 1, 2016, and featured a cover of the Black Sabbath song "Changes".[19] 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.[20]


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.[21][22]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Label & 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


Year Title Credited to Label & 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 Bullets Daptone Records DAP-1014
2006 "This Love Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us" Charles Bradley and the Bullets Daptone Records DAP-1021
2007 "The World (Is Going Up in Flames)" / "Heartaches and Pain" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band / Charles Bradley Daptone Records DAP-1034 / Dunham DNM-102
2008 "The Telephone Song" Charles Bradley Daptone Records DAP-1041 / Dunham DUN-103
2010 "No Time for Dreaming" / "Golden Rule" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1055 / Dunham DUN-107
2010 "Every Day Is Christmas (When I'm Lovin' You)" / "Mary's Baby" Charles Bradley featuring The Gospel Queens Daptone Records DAP-1058 / Dunham DUN-109
2011 "Heart of Gold" / "In You (I Found a Love)" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1059 / Dunham DUN-110
2012 "Stay Away" / "Run It Back" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band / Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1065 / Dunham DUN-111
2013 "Strictly Reserved for You" / "Let Love Stand a Chance" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1070 / Dunham DUN-113
2013 "Confusion" / "Where Do We Go from Here" Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1073 / Dunham DUN-114
2013 "Changes" / "Ain't It a Sin" Charles Bradley & The Budos Band / Charles Bradley & The Bullets Daptone Records DAP-1076 / Dunham DUN-115
2014 "Luv Jones" / "Change, Change, Change" Charles Bradley & LaRose Jackson Daptone Records DAP-1080 / Dunham DUN-117
2016 "Change for the World" / "Revelations" Charles Bradley / Menahan Street Band Daptone Records DAP-1095 / Dunham DUN-118
2019 "Lonely as You Are" Charles Bradley Innit Recordings
2019 "Lucifer" Charles Bradley Innit Recordings

Other appearances[edit]


  1. ^ Hockley-Smith, Sam (September 25, 2017). "Charles Bradley: A Master of Raw Soul". Archived from the original on September 26, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  2. ^ "Charles Bradley Bio". Official Website. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  3. ^ "No Time For Dreaming: Charles Bradley". Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  4. ^ "Charles Bradley: No Time For Dreaming". Paste Magazine. January 24, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  5. ^ "Review of Soul of America". Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d "Rollo & Grady Interview with Charles Bradley – Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog". May 20, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c "Charles Bradley, at 62, finally putting his own soul on display for the world – Chicago Tribune". April 14, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Bradley, Charles (February 26, 2011). "Charles Bradley: An Impersonator Finds His Own Voice". NPR. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  9. ^ "Charles Bradley can finally talk about his tragic life". Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  10. ^ Sambides, Nick Jr. (September 27, 2017). "How a famous soul singer got his start in Maine". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  11. ^ "Live on Soundcheck: Charles Bradley – WNYC Culture". Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  12. ^ Sweeting, Adam (September 24, 2017). "Charles Bradley obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved September 24, 2017 – via
  13. ^ "Charles Bradley played New Year's Eve, playing James Brown tribute as 'Black Velvet' (and other dates)". January 9, 2012. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  14. ^ Andy Downing (February 16, 2012). "Soul man Charles Bradley embraces his heartaches and pain at High Noon: 77-square". Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  15. ^ "CHARLES BRADLEY – Daptone Records". Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  16. ^ "Charles Bradley Film: "Soul of America"". Archived from the original on February 13, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  17. ^ "Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires James St. North, Hamilton ON, September 14". Exclaim!, By Calum Slingerland. September 15, 2014
  18. ^ Sullivan, James (February 21, 2013). "Late Bloomer Charles Bradley Eager to Release Second Soul Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  19. ^ Charles Bradley "Changes" on YouTube
  20. ^ "Charles Bradley cancels appearance, tour". Facebook. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  21. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (September 24, 2017). "Charles Bradley, a Late-in-Life Soul Music Star, Dies at 68". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Newman, Jason (September 23, 2017). "Charles Bradley, Acclaimed Soul Singer, Dead at 68". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X.
  23. ^ Hilton, Robin (July 18, 2011). "Telekinesis, Others Cover Nirvana For 'Nevermind' Tribute Album". NPR. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  24. ^ Kelly, Tyler Damara (October 3, 2023). "Light in the Attic announce Record Store Day exclusive reissue of their Cover Series, Light in the Attic & Friends". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved October 4, 2023.

External links[edit]