Charles Bradley: Tales of Perseverance | WGLT

Charles Bradley: Tales of Perseverance

Apr 30, 2016

Credit Courtney Armitage

Covering a 1972 Black Sabbath song seems an unlikely choice for a black Soul singer.

“The reason I wanted to learn it is because of my Mom, and because the lyrics fit my soul. And when I hear something my soul likes, I can bring it out.”

Bradley elaborated that his mother’s impending death made "Changes" a poignant song to cover for his new Daptone Records album of the same name.

“We were binding together again because we had a lot of absences in our life between one another.  She was telling me a lot of things about her life, and I was telling things about my life and my absence from her.  One part of the song really says it all: ‘It took so long to realize/I can still hear her last goodbye/But now all my days have turned to tears/I wish I could go back and change these years’.”

Because he lived a difficult and chaotic life, Charles Bradley would likely have brought “soul” to any music genre he chose.  At eight months old he was abandoned by his birth mother and lived with his grandmother until his mother took him back at age eight. By 14, he had had enough of a dirt floor basement bedroom and hit the streets, living in abandoned buildings by day and sleeping in New York City subway cars at night.  His later jobs included stints with Job Corps and time as a chef in posh Bar Harbor, Maine.  Reflecting on his time living homeless, Bradley advises those who ask to keep family and friends close.

“It was a hard time as a 14 year old living the streets, abandoned streets and subway cars, scrounging for food.  I didn’t know anything until I was grown.  All I knew was people took me in when they wanted something from me and used me in their own selfish ways.  But what kept me strong is my faith.”

Bradley says that faith was instilled by his Grandmother. 

“My Grandmother always said ‘if you love God with all your heart and soul, show his creations, man and woman on earth that you love them, and learn how to carry your cross like Jesus carried his cross.  And then God will hear your cry in Heaven’.”

Though his chaotic life, Bradley music was a constant.  For years he performed as a James Brown impersonator in the clubs of Brooklyn.  He admits he was close to giving up his music business dreams.
when he was discovered by Daptone Records just over five years ago when he was in his early 60’s.  “Changes” is his third critically acclaimed album for the label, an album that allowed him to express feelings about many topics, including the reunion he had with his mother.  He says that reunion was a blessing, and bittersweet.

“When I heard some of the changes she had been through, and I looked at a lot of things she said and told her some of the things I had gone through, I heard the cry in her voice she was sincere about what she was saying. And I said Mom let’s forget about the past.  Let’s bind these minds together and learn to love one another.  I’m glad I got a chance to really get to know her.”