Charles Bradley (singer)

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Charles Bradley
Charles Bradley - The Menahan Street Band (Jazz Fest Wien 2011) 27.jpg
Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band (Jazz Fest Wien 2011)
Background information
Born (1948-11-05) November 5, 1948 (age 68)
Gainesville, Florida, United States
Genres Funk, soul
Years active 1965–present
Labels Dunham Records
Associated acts The Budos Band, Menahan Street Band

Charles Bradley (born November 5, 1948) is an American funk/soul/R&B singer, signed to the Daptone Records label under the Dunham Records division.[1] His performances and recording style are consistent with Daptone's revivalist approach, celebrating the feel of funk and soul music from the 1960s and 1970s.[2] One review stated that Bradley "echoes the evocative delivery of Otis Redding".[3]

He is the subject of a documentary, Soul of America, that premiered at South by Southwest in 2012.[4] He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2016.[5]

Early life[edit]

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.[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 due to his 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. Later, he enlisted in Job Corps which eventually led him to Bar Harbor, Maine to train as a chef. One time while working, a co-worker told him he looked like James Brown. When asked if he could sing, he was at first shy but eventually admitted that he could. 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. After his band mates were drafted into the Vietnam War, the act never re-formed.[9]

Bradley worked in Maine as a cook for ten years until deciding 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]

Career in music[edit]

Black Velvet & initial recordings (1996-2010)[edit]

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.[6] It was there he began making a living moonlighting as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs under the name "Black Velvet."[10][11] 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.[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 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.

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 humble 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 went on to play prominent festivals around the world, and the story and legacy of Bradley continued.[12]

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

Bradley's second album, Victim of Love came out on April 2, 2013.[13] Bradley's most recent album, Changes (released on April 1, 2016), featured a cover of the Black Sabbath song, "Changes."[14] In August 2016 he fell ill and had to cancel a Canadian tour and his appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival July 30th (UK), where Darlingside filled in for him.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

Bradley's songs have frequently been sampled by hip hop artists, such as Jay-Z and Asher Roth.[16] 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).[17] 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!'. The song "Dusty Blue" was featured in the 3rd Season and the song "Changes" was featured in the 6th season of the TV series Suits. He is 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.


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


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

Other appearances[edit]

  • "Take It As It Comes" from The Sugarman 3 album Pure Cane Sugar (2002).
  • "Take It As It Comes" (Afrodisiac Soundsystem Remix) from the album Daptone Records Remixed (2007).
  • "Stay Away" (Nirvana cover) from Spin's Newermind album, a compilation of Nirvana covers (2011).


  1. ^ "Charles Bradley Bio". Official Website. 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. ^ "Charles Bradley, Late Bloomer: Review of Soul of America". Frontier Psychiatrist. Retrieved April 27, 2012. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d "Rollo & Grady Interview with Charles Bradley – Rollo & Grady: Los Angeles Music Blog". 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  7. ^ a b c "Charles Bradley, at 62, finally putting his own soul on display for the world - Chicago Tribune". 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  8. ^ a b c Bradley, Charles (2011-02-26). "Charles Bradley: An Impersonator Finds His Own Voice". NPR. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Live on Soundcheck: Charles Bradley - WNYC Culture". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  10. ^ "Charles Bradley played New Year's Eve, playing James Brown tribute as 'Black Velvet' (and other dates)". 2012-01-09. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  11. ^ Andy Downing (2012-02-16). "Soul man Charles Bradley embraces his heartaches and pain at High Noon : 77-square". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  12. ^ "Charles Bradley Film: "Soul of America"". Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  13. ^ Sullivan, James (February 21, 2013). "Late Bloomer Charles Bradley Eager to Release Second Soul Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ "OFFICIAL VIDEO: Charles Bradley "Changes"". YouTube. 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  15. ^ "Charles Bradley cancels appearance, tour". Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  16. ^ "Charles Bradley Music Sampled by Others". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  17. ^ "Charles Bradley". Retrieved 2016-05-25. 

External links[edit]