Charles Bradley, ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’, will be serenading one lucky Valentine with the ultimate bittersweet performance over the phone. Tweet #GottaMakeItRight!
Charles Bradley has The Godfather on his side. After a childhood on the streets, a James Brown gig inspired him to begin practicing microphone moves with a broom. But following the Vietnam War, his budding career was put on hold as he spent 40 years drifting from New York to Alaska to California. Back in Brooklyn, he again took to the stage but fate stood in his path as his beloved brother was shot dead. The Godfather didn’t let him down, and despite severe depression, a James Brown cover gig won him a contract with Daptone. Finally given the chance to record, his first album ‘No Time for Dreaming’, stings of authenticity. When he applies his cracked voice to lines like: “don’t tell me how to live my life, when you never felt the pain”, you can’t help but agree – with head and heart.
You’re the most original voice in the neo-soul movement. How have you made this genre your own? ‘Heartaches and Pains’ are my life experiences; I’ve actually lived that. I still find it very hard to sing because it puts my mind back in those places. But I look at the audience and put my hurt aside and do it for them. I want to tell them not to give up on their dreams. If you keep them in your heart, they’re gonna grow. I want people to know that and to see that I live the good life. All I wanna do with my music is good.
If I could only listen to one of your tracks, which should it be? ‘Loving you Baby’, that’s my favourite. The others on ‘Heartaches and Pain’ all have a part of me, but ‘Loving You Baby’ is where my soul lies.
What was the recording process like? Tommy [Brenneck, of the Menahan Street Band and Dunham Records] called me. I’d just lost my brother and was in a deep depression. We kept talking and he got me over. There was just a tape recorder and a keyboard. I told him the story of my brother’s death and he said ‘sing it’. I did, line by line – I kept stopping because it was so emotional for me. He came back with a band two months later. The first time I listened to it, it was way too much and I walked out. Something in my soul shifts when I hear music and I’ve just got to capture it and record and see what comes out.
Do fans ever turn to you for guidance? In Canada, a young kid came up to me after a show. He was crying because he’d just lost his mum. He said to me “Charles, please help me”. I looked at him, pulled him to the side and said, “Your mum did the best she could. You’re a fine young man. She put a lot of love in you. We never know when God’s time is up. Now it’s up to you to carry God’s love in your heart. You’ve got a little light in you, don’t let it go out.” He looked at me and he was still crying. He was only eighteen or nineteen. I remember his face. If someone comes to me – anyone – I will help them because any heart can feel the truth.
Charles Bradley is currently touring the US and Australia. His debut album ‘No Time for Dreaming’ is out now on Dunham/Daptone Records.
For your chance to have Charles Bradley serenade your Valentine, tweet @Charles_Bradley with #GottaMakeItRight.
Text: Oscar Quine