Charles Bradley, acclaimed soul singer, passes away at 68 after tough battle with cancer

PTI

Sep,25 2017 18:53 51 IST

Charles Bradley, the soul singer whose robust voice and defiantly upbeat outlook won him stardom in his final years after a life of poverty, passed away on 23 September from cancer. He was 68.

Charles Bradley. Image from Twitter.

Charles Bradley. Image from Twitter.

Bradley, who for years had scraped by as a James Brown impersonator, had pulled off another battle against the odds earlier this year when he triumphantly returned from cancer treatment.
But the disease had spread to his liver and he recently canceled months of shows. He passed at his Brooklyn home surrounded by family, friends and bandmates, his publicist said.

"Mr Bradley was truly grateful for all the love he's received from his fans and we hope his message of love is remembered and carried on," his Facebook page said, asking for donations to art charities that support young people in lieu of flowers. After years of taking odd jobs across the United States and drifting into homelessness, Bradley was discovered by the co-founder of Brooklyn-based Daptone Records, which put out his debut album in 2011 when he was 62.

With a rich, brassy voice that evoked Otis Redding coupled with the body-shaking screams of Brown and a relentless positivity, Bradley at last found commercial success.
"I always wanted this in my 30s and 40s, but I got it at the age of 62. It's bittersweet," he told. His latest album, 'Changes,' figured on several music magazines' lists of 2016's top albums.

Abandoned at birth by his New York-based mother, Bradley spent his early years in Gainesville, Florida with his grandmother before an itinerant life that took him to Alaska, California, Maine and upstate New York, where he was a cook at a mental hospital and recalled harassment by police. Facing homelessness, Bradley returned in the mid-1990s to New York to reconcile and care for his aging mother.

Playing Brown under the stage name Black VelvetBradley had his break when he was spotted by Daptone co- founder Gabriel Roth whose label specializes in reviving retro soul and funk.

On 'Changes', the title track was a cover of the song by metal legends Black Sabbath that Bradley heard as a eulogy for his mother, to whom he became close before she died in 2014. Returning to Gainesville to perform last year, Bradley said in a local interview that he saw in his music a way to "help humanity."