Profile: Charles Bradley

The phrase, 'had a hard life', probably doesn't mean too much to most people. Soul and RnB singer, Charles Bradley, certainly knows what it means to have a hard life; spending the majority of his early life on the streets, he's not your average recording artist.

Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1948, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, his dreams of becoming a famous singer seemed down-right impossible. The moment he realised he could transform his life was in 1962, when his sister took him to see the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, live at the Apollo. In awe of Brown's infectious energy and stage presence, Bradley went home that night and began practising microphone tricks with a broom in the mirror. Throughout his difficult life, he never abandoned his dream of getting up on stage.

Bradley realised he needed to get out of Brooklyn if he was going to turn his life around. A programme called Job Corps is something that Charles is still grateful for to this very day. Through Job Corps, he learned to cook, using the profession to fall back on when times got tough. However, his real love was still music. He put a band together and began playing local gigs. This double life of being a chef and performing was all he knew for the next twenty years.

After many mishaps and misfortunes and playing gigs wherever he could get them, his James Brown-inspired routines finally caught the attention of Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records. Immediately, Bradley was taken into the studio and his debut single was released, Take It As It Comes. The song showcased Bradley's fiery vocals and passion. Bradley was later introduced to songwriter and guitarist, Thomas Brenneck, with whom he released two more singles under the name, Charles Bradley and The Bullets. Various members of the band left, but Bradley and Brenneck continued working together with their shared love for the music.

One of the most terrible and life-changing moments for Charles Bradley, was the discovery that his dear brother had been shot and killed. After that day, Bradley said that life was not worth living anymore. As a close friend, Brenneck suggested that the pair write a song about what had happened, which would act as both a catharsis, as well as a cautionary tale. The results were a heart-breaking and truly heart-wrenching pair of singles, The World (Is Going Up In Flames, and Bradley's current single, Heartaches and Pain. These highly personal insights into Bradley's tough life enabled him to emerge as a singer songwriter who's passion, love and genuine musical talents are totally endearing.

Charles Bradley's new, full length album, No Time For Dreaming was released earlier this year via Dunham Records, and to celebrate, you can now watch the first episode of a two-part film documenting Bradley's life and work, for free, on Gigseen.

The short films, entitled Gigseen Presents.. take a personal look at Bradley's inner-most thoughts, his struggle through life and his unexpected musical successes. Watch it here now.