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Charles Bradley

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  • Charles Bradley

  • Charles Bradley


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Soul and R&B singer Charles Bradley definitely didn’t arrive as a recording artist by taking the easy route. Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1948, but raised in Brooklyn, New York, Bradley spent a good part of his childhood living on the streets. A transformational moment came when his sister took him to see James Brown at the Apollo in 1962. Bradley was struck by Brown's energy and stage manner, and began practicing microphone tricks with a broom at home, dreaming of being a star on his own stage, and it was a dream he would never abandon in spite of all sorts of mishaps, misdirects, and general hard times.

Bradley escaped Brooklyn by joining the federal program Job Corps, which took him to Bar Harbor, Maine, where he learned to cook, a profession he was to fall back on time and time again. He also put together a band in Maine and began playing local gigs. The band didn’t last long, though, and when most of its members were drafted, and with the Vietnam War hanging in the air, Bradley moved to Wassaic, New York, where he worked as a cook at a hospital for the mentally ill. Nine years later, he left that position and hitchhiked west, ending up in Alaska for a time before moving to California, again taking a job as a chef, and for the next 20 years, he performed music on the side, playing whatever gigs he could find. When he was laid off from his position, though, he began to doubt his decision to live so far from where he grew up.

Bradley eventually relocated back to Brooklyn, this time working at odd jobs instead of returning to being a chef. He never let go of his musical dreams, and he began performing his James Brown-inspired routines in such local clubs as Black Velvet, attracting a loyal following and eventually capturing the attention of Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records. Roth immediately brought the fiery singer into label sessions, releasing a single, "Take It as It Comes," that showed what Bradley had to offer as a vocalist. Roth also introduced Bradley to Thomas Brenneck, then a guitarist, songwriter, and home producer for Dirt Rifle & the Bullets. The pair had an affinity for each other musically, and together they released two singles on Daptone as Charles Bradley & the Bullets before the actual group by that name disbanded (most of the members went in an Afro-beat direction with the Budos Band).

Brenneck and Bradley continued to work together, and after Bradley told him about waking up in his home one morning to discover his nephew had shot and killed his brother, Brenneck suggested they tell the story in music as a catharsis and as a cautionary tale. The result, tracked with the Menahan Street Band, was a pair of impassioned singles, “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” and “Heartaches and Pain,” which Brenneck released on his Daptone sub-imprint Dunham Records. These weren’t songs drawn from Bradley's Black Velvet act, but were instead highly personal and striking outings that put his own emerging voice as a singer and songwriter at the center of things. A full album for Dunham, No Time for Dreaming, appeared early in 2011. Bradley received global acclaim for the album, and toured relentlessly to support it. His follow-up, Victim of Love, was released in the spring of 2013.

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Tour Dates All Dates Dates In My Area

Date Venue Location Tickets
05.04.16 The Westport Saloon Kansas City, MO US
05.04.16 Exit In Nashville, TN US
05.05.16 Old Rock House Saint Louis, MO US
05.06.16 Daytrotter Rock Island, IA US
05.12.16 The Observatory North Park San Diego, CA US
05.13.16 The Theatre at Ace Los Angeles, CA US
05.14.16 Pappy and Harriets Pioneertown Palace Pioneertown, CA US
05.14.16 Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown, CA US
05.16.16 The Catalyst Santa Cruz, CA US
05.17.16 The Fillmore San Francisco, CA US

eMusic Features


Interview: Charles Bradley

By Andrew Perry, Contributor

[Charles Bradley turned heads and broke hearts with his 2011 triumph No Time for Dreaming. On the advent of his second masterpiece, the scorching, searing, Victim of Love, we invited Bradley and his bandleader and co-writer, Tom Brenneck, to take over eMusic's editorial section. Below, they discuss the whirlwind that was the last two years of their lives. You can also read our interview with legendary songwriter Leon Russell, commissioned at Bradley and Brenneck's request.… more »


SXSW 2011: Days 3 and 4 Report

By J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief

One of both the strange upsides and unfortunate downsides of South by Southwest is that it seems to take place in a vacuum - for a week straight, the world is reduced to the intersection of 6th Street and Red River in Austin, and it's easy to pretend there is little happening outside it. Occasionally, though, reality intervenes: This year's festival happened in the shadow of global catastrophe - the tsunami and subsequent nuclear instability… more »


Remembering: Von Freeman’s Swing, Bebop, Avant-Garde Thing

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

[Editor's Note: On August 11, jazz saxophonist Von Freeman passed away at 88 years of age. In 2010, Kevin Whitehead wrote a piece about Freeman, which we're featuring here to celebrate his tremendous legacy.] In Chicago, they all but carry him around in a sedan chair: Von Freeman, the tenor saxophonist who's educated umpteen young musicians on the bandstand. In 2002, the city named a stretch of E. 75th Street after him, down by the New… more »


  • 05.01.16 RT @BBC6Music: Get to your radios! @Charles_Bradley in session @ccfunkandsoul NOW! LISTEN: https://t.co/wSZPIEqsdA https://t.co/myY61VX7Oi
  • 04.30.16 Madison tonight! We hear the great "funky drummer" may be swinging by... #charlesbradley… https://t.co/mx6qANrSZV
  • 04.30.16 We're all set for a sold out Turner Hall tonight! Let's get into it... #charlesbradley… https://t.co/1HYOvmhgxK
  • 04.29.16 Listen to Ain't It A Sin on @Spotify's #TrendingOnTV playlist here: https://t.co/Pi5DLJFH9R
  • 04.29.16 Bout to go live at @radiomilwaukee And tonight we're rocking Turner Hall! #charlesbradley… https://t.co/8hAC1CASuK
  • 04.29.16 NAME THAT SONG! https://t.co/4YuXy5fn9f | New @Target ad featuring #AintItASin out now!
  • 04.28.16 CB hookin up Fred of hisextraordinairies with the pre show massage.. We go live on @93xrt at 1pm… https://t.co/Fwjz4HgzgL
  • 04.27.16 Thanks to @The_National's @aaron_dessner and @bryce_dessner for curating the #DayOfTheDead tribute album - glad to be a part of it!
  • 04.27.16 CB & @MenahanStBand cover Cumberland Blues for #dayofthedead tribute album Listen here: https://t.co/myJpouYflM @4AD https://t.co/pNs0WAyFMJ
  • 04.27.16 CHICAGO! We're comin for you! Tonight we hit at the Evanston SPACE then tomorrow at Thalia Hall.… https://t.co/dbhMxKBDKo
  • 04.26.16 Hey! Did you hear? We're performing at @Bonnaroo this summer! See you on June 12th #Bonnaroo #CharlesForChange https://t.co/OPkhYAXJUF
  • 04.26.16 RT @evanstonspace: Tomorrow Night! @Charles_Bradley is here to rock the house for special @93XRT show at 10pm. https://t.co/mbxMLlTWMV http…