THE SCREAMING EAGLE OF SOUL HAS LANDED-THIS IS CHARLES BRADLEY By Sandra Castillo
The camera will never lie. It can only expose the truth, the raw, visceral range of emotional latitude which reveals what one needs to see in order to understand what is going on just beneath the core surface of the one inhabiting those feelings. With so much emotion bared and exposed across the beautiful, deeply-lined topography of his visage, Charles Bradley sings his song, “Changes,” as the camera stays focused on the pain and sorrow he intensely emotes, making it very difficult for the viewer not to experience the gut-wrenching depth of what he is feeling. This is the mark of a great artist, one whose display of emotions allows others the opportunity to empathize with him and feel what he is trying to convey through his music and song.
Charles Bradley is a contemporary artist whose style and presence harkens back to that certain era of music wrapped in the soul persuasions of such legends as Otis Redding, Clarence Carter and Bobby Womack. Rightfully dubbed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” for his fervent delivery and stage performances, the singer was born in 1948 in Gainesville, Florida but raised in Brooklyn, New York. He spent a large part of his childhood on the streets, where he learned the art of survival which later served him well and helped shape the foundation of his music.
In 1962, his life was forever changed when he saw the indisputable King of Soul perform. It was the unforgettable, show-stopping performance of the legendary James Brown that ignited a furor within the young Bradley; at that point, he suddenly realized what he wanted to do with his life. After that initial show, he began practicing “microphone tricks with a broom” in the confines of his home, mimicking what he had witnessed at the Apollo on that life-changing evening.
As time marched on, Bradley knew he needed to leave Brooklyn, so he headed out and joined the federal Job Corps program where it took him to Bar Harbor, Maine. It was while living there he honed his skills as a cook. He also formed a band but that was only for a short season. He eventually left Maine and headed on to Wassaic, New York, where he found employment as a cook at a facility for the mentally ill.
Almost a decade later, Bradley wound up in Alaska before he eventually moved on to California. Once he was settled in California, he found work in his area of expertise-as a chef-but utilized his free time by making music on the side. However, it was just a matter of time before the West Coast bid him adieu, and so, the chef left his apron and culinary tools behind to return back home to Brooklyn. When he reached the East Coast, he pursued his music full force and captivated a loyal following. It was his high-energy, soulful stage performances that captured the eyes and ears of Gabriel Roth, a representative of Daptone Records, who became the driving force for getting Bradley through the doors of his studio and into recording sessions with his label. The first single from that concession was “Take It As It Comes.” In time, Roth introduced the singer to Thomas Brenneck, guitarist with the band Dirt Rifle and The Bullets. The two men had a definite chemistry and major connection that proved their compatibility as a real, working team. This successful alliance merged and became known as Charles Bradley and The Bullets.
Though this musical outfit eventually parted ways, both Bradley and Brenneck continued to work and collaborate together, which resulted in the powerful ballads “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” and “Heartache and Pain.” In 2011, Bradley released No Time For Dreaming to critical acclaim. This recognition by the music industry put him firmly on the radar to a whole new contingency of fans around the globe. In 2013, he recorded another outstanding album, Victim of Love. More recently this year, the Screaming Eagle of Soul released Changes.
Bradley has taken his musical act to such major events as Coachella, Glastonbury Festival and Primavera Sound. He’s graced the stages at the Beacon Theatre and where it all began for him, more than 50 years ago at the Apollo, the same place an exciting performer by the name of James Brown ignited the fire in the heart and soul of a young boy from Brooklyn.
America, we are in for something magnificent and real. Brothers and Sisters, this is Charles Bradley.