Charles Bradley: ‘I am the Victim of Love, because I love everybody.’
Originally published in the Irish Sun on June 14th, 2013.
It’s said that soul is the music of struggle and of overcoming deep hardship – and nothing could be more true when it comes to Charles Bradley, whose journey to the top has been longer and more challenging than most.
It’s not so much the 64-year-old’s age that is surprising, but the fact he only released his first album a mere two years ago. 2011’s No Time For Dreaming marked him out as ferociously talented, gritty soul singer, but it’s with his new record Victim of Love that Bradley looks set to kick onto the big time.
Speaking to Something for the Weekend ahead of his performance at next weekend’s Body & Soul festival, Bradley mused: “I called this second album the Victim of Love because I believe through all my trials and tribulation, that I am the victim of love because I love everybody.
“I get no joy from hurting no one. If I can’t give you nothing good for yourself, I ain’t going to tell you nothing at all.”
Bradley’s biography is not one for the faint-hearted. A poverty-stricken childhood – he didn’t meet his mother until he was eight – gave way to a drifter’s life as an adult.
The one thing that kept him on course was a tightly-held belief that good things come to good people.
“I never gave up because I know I always had a dream,” he says.
“They always say be true to your dreams. Don’t give up –even though it’s very shady, you never know who can come and find you. I believe that Tom Brenneck is the one who found me.”
Tom Brenneck is Bradley’s producer, band leader and writing partner who, along with Daptone Records founder Gabe Roth, Bradley credits with bringing his lifelong dream to pass.
Roth discovered Bradley as he toured the New York club circuit as Black Velvet, a fitting title for a James Brown impersonator.
“James Brown and I came from the same era and the spirit that he got and his hardships as a young man, I’ve been there too. That’s why I can relate to him.
“I’ve always in life picked the hardest thing to do because I wanted to master the hardest thing to do, and that’s why I chose James Brown to do.
“When I saw him in the Apollo, the things that he did, I said this is what I want to learn from.
“You learn from the greatest teacher that you know, and for me James Brown was the greatest thing out there doing his music. I learned to master his music, now I let it rest and I go and do Charles Bradley.”
Bradley’s wider influences are slightly more surprising. He confesses to a deep love for the music of Barbra Streisand (“nobody sings ‘Memories’ like she can”) and credits the Eagles with, quite literally, saving his life:
“Take it to the Limit’ by the Eagles – man, when they sung that song, that actually saved my life. I was going through a deep depression at the time – I was looking for a way to get out of this body of mine because I couldn’t take the pain in those days.
“It’s not the creed or colour you are, it’s what you carry in your heart and soul. I say, don’t judge a book by its colour, judge it by the content of its heart.”
Charles Bradley plays the Body & Soul festival in Co Westmeath on Saturday June 22nd.