6 of Charles Bradley's Best Festival Appearances
Today, the music world lost its "Screaming Eagle of Soul," Charles Bradley. Gone too soon at age 68 after a battle with stomach cancer, the impassioned soul singer released his first album at age 62, and brought the house down during Coachella at 66, proving it’s never too late to live your dreams.
However, it wasn’t after decades of hardship that he finally saw any sort of recognition for his extraordinary talents. Bradley left home at age 14 and, homeless, slept on New York subway trains to keep warm. In the early 1960s, his sister took him to see James Brown at his historic Apollo theater performance, which impacted Bradley’s life so profoundly that he spent the next 40 years toiling as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet, beginning when he was 19.
Through it all he overcame illiteracy, poverty and chronic unemployment, a near-death experience from a penicillin allergy and tragedy when his brother was murdered by Bradley's own nephew. He was a cook at a mental hospital for 10 years in Maine, a handyman for even longer in New York, and would occasionally perform James Brown numbers by night. A twist of fate came when, according to Rolling Stone , Gabriel Roth, founder of Daptone Records, caught a show of Bradley’s in a New York club. Roth introduced Bradley to producer-musician Tom Brenneck, who went on to produce all three of Bradley’s acclaimed albums: No Time For Dreaming (2011), Victim of Love (2013), and Changes (2016), all released by Daptone Records. It was the roller coaster of his life that infused his music with a rare authenticity made from unbridled heartache, hope, and joy.
As a performer, he mixed energy, passion and sadness into his songs, leaving little bits of his heart on every festival or club stage he graced. Enjoy a few of his best festival appearances below.
LOCKN' Festival 2016
Bradley's entire (incredible) set from Lockn' is available to watch in full here.
Rockpalast-Crossroads Festival 2013 (Germany)
BottleRock Napa 2017
This one is especially heartbreaking because in his spoken intro he celebrates beating cancer, followed by tons of applause from the audience. Insane to think this was just a few months ago.
Bonus: Monterey Pop International 2017 #2