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Remembering Charles Bradley, 1948-2017

Brooke Bowen

Brooke Bowen

Sarah Williams-Cain,
Contributor

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I remember the first Charles Bradley song I ever heard. “Victim of Love”, one of his best selling songs and albums, immediately struck me with its genuine sound and even more authentic lyrics. His raspy voice coupled with that old-timey Motown sound fit together like two peas in a pod. I was instantly drawn to both Bradley and his music.

I frantically began researching everything I could find out about him, which evidently was not much. Charles Bradley was an American R&B soul singer with a somewhat late rise to fame, which was ultimately cut short by his aggressive battle with stomach and liver cancer. He died on Sept. 23.

I discovered his music merely a year and a half ago, and ever since have turned my friends into devoted fans as well as myself. Although I never got a chance to see him in person, his music still directly affected me and anyone else his craft reached. His music is what I like to think of as incredibly well thought out and executed tribute to the sixties era with so much emphasis on strong vocal range and collaborative instruments aiding the background track.

I knew almost immediately that I wanted his work on vinyl because to me, vinyl is the purest and most effective way to truly capture the raw talent and essence of Bradley’s music. It was a must-have for me.

Although unclear of its origin, my family has owned one of the most beautiful record players I have ever seen, a vintage cherry wood Detrola turntable. Every time I went to my grandparent’s house I would play any records set out during the day; usually Crowded House, Ella Fitzgerald, or of course, The Beatles. By the grace of God, that record player was somehow bestowed upon me, and ever since then I have cherished it like a newborn child. Can you guess what the first album I bought on vinyl was? Well yes, none other than that of Bradley himself.

For me, his music was never just a number of songs I listened to. It was more of an experience, something I always held dear to my heart. Although I tried to show anyone and everyone my excessive love for this absolute icon, I truly held you in high regards if I showed you my favorite album of his on vinyl, “Victim of Love”.

When I heard about his passing, I was devastated. It didn’t seem fair to me. Here was an artist who had so much talent and genuine love for what he did, but all was cut short. It was not until his fifties when Bradley began making music. With relatively no ties to the music industry until then, he held odd jobs and did handyman work until his accidental success in the field.

Bradley started off as a James Brown Impersonator going by the moniker “Black Velvet”. His love for Brown stemmed from attending one of his concerts with his sister when he was just 14. Ever since then, his love for both Brown and the soul music to which he loved stayed with him from then on.  

He began to find his own footing in the industry and went on to produce three studio albums; “No Time for Dreaming” in 2011, “Victim of Love” in 2013 and finally “Changes” in 2016. According to Rolling Stone, Bradley was signed under Daptone records for the length of his career. Notable features include his best seller “Victim of Love” airing on HBO’s popular television series “Big Little Lies” and even acquiring a spot on Rolling Stone’s “50 Best Albums of the Year” in 2011 for his work on the debut album “No Time for Dreaming”.

Bradley was projected to begin an international tour stopping at places such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Canada starting in November 2017. Bradley was a vivacious soul with a certain zest for life that you do not see in many people. His music will continue to live, a legacy he intended for future generations. Melodies and soulful crooning is what people will take forth remembering this music legend whose time in the spotlight was cut short.

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Remembering Charles Bradley, 1948-2017