Charles Bradley is the embodiment of the American Dream, even though most Americans probably don’t even know of him.
Born in Florida in 1948, Bradley was abandoned by his mother and raised by grandparents. His mother, who he never met until after the age of eight, eventually reclaimed him and moved to New York. His unhappy home life led to him running away and sleeping rough for years until he eventually found a job as a chef in Maine which lasted a decade; after which he hitchhiked west to spend a further twenty years working odd jobs to make ends meet.
Despite Bradley’s inauspicious formative years, he cites his big sister taking him to the Apollo Theatre in 1962 where a James Brown performance dazzled him into wanting to be like the icon. He has spent his life performing in local clubs as a James Brown impersonator, hoping that his own talents may outshine the mimicry routine he had been pigeonholed in to.
They say everything happens for a reason. Even though it is easy to dismiss Bradley’s act as outdated, camp and pastiche, his voice is something else. This is a man whose time is now, and it’s a reminder of what natural talent truly is. Whereas Bradley may have just been another ephemeral soul singer had he found success fifty years ago, in this day and age he is nothing short of timeless.