Spotlight on Charles Bradley, the Screaming Eagle of Soul

After an impressive run on the festival circuit this summer, 67-year-old soul singer Charles Bradley recently had to cancel a few of his tour appearances in Canada and in Seattle, much to the disappointment of ticket holders like my partner and myself. Thankfully, we’ve been lucky enough to see the so-called Screaming Eagle of Soul twice already, and on both occasions he stole the show from artists less than half his age on the lineup.

The man puts on a phenomenal show—his stage presence is undeniable, and his adoration for his fans palpable. Charles Bradley radiates both feel-good funk and deep, gut-wrenching blues, as he croons, preaches, and dances from the bottom of his heart in his personally bedazzled thrift store finds on stage.

Bradley’s remarkable story—a hard-earned life of cooking jobs and singing gigs, interrupted by periods of homelessness and undeserved, racially-motivated prison time—is nearly as well known as his music. It’s the subject of the awe-inspiring documentary Soul of America, which premiered at South by Southwest in 2012. After years of performing as a James Brown impersonator under the moniker Black Velvet, Bradley was discovered in Brooklyn by Gabe Roth, founder of Daptones Records—a label best known for backing another late-in-life, larger-than-life star, the incomparable Sharon Jones. Roth set the singer up with Tom Brenneck of the Menahan Street Band, with whom he began to write and release his own material. His first album No Time for Dreaming hit stores in 2011.

As consolation for fans like me who have to wait to see his tour dates rescheduled, and as a PSA for those of you still yet to discover his music, today’s playlist goes out to the Screaming Eagle of Soul, in hopes he makes it back on that stage where he belongs before long.

Alongside the songs he wrote with his team, this playlist features three covers that Bradley entirely reinvents—a slightly lesser-known Nirvana track, a Grateful Dead song featured on the recent Day of the Dead compilation album, and a now-iconic version of a Black Sabbath song from which his 2016 record takes its name. “I never heard of that guy [Ozzy Osbourne] before,” Bradley told Spin earlier this year when asked about his connection to the song. Chances are he didn’t know Jerry Garcia or Kurt Cobain too well either, but his voice gives each of these songs new life, just as his career gives new life and new meaning to retro obsession in music today. Charles Bradley isn’t just channeling the 70s; he lived them, and thank the lord he lives today to sing them back to us.

Playlist:

  1. The World (Is Going Up in Flames)
  2. Heartaches and Pain
  3. Crazy for Your Love
  4. Change for the World
  5. Lovin’ You, Baby
  6. Ain’t It A Sin
  7. You Put the Flame On It
  8. You Think I Don’t Know (But I Know)
  9. Cumberland Blues [Grateful Dead cover]
  10. Stay Away [Nirvana cover]
  11. Changes [Black Sabbath cover]
  12. Why Is It So Hard?

Sara Iacovelli

Sara Iacovelli

Sara moved from NYC to Boulder to Seattle, where she pours beer for a living and drinks beer for a hobby. She holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature, which she uses mostly to compare her own writing to that of writers she loves.
Sara Iacovelli