Charles Bradley - The Screaming Eagle of Soul

Blake Morneau: Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to me.

Charles Bradley: Hey brother, thank you for having me. It take two turns to make a turn, right? (Laughs) It’s likewise and I thank you for it.

BM: I’m loving your record [No Time For Dreaming], it’s a fantastic album.

CB: Thank you, I’m glad you like it.

BM: What it’s like to sing songs that personal, night in and night out?

CB: It hurts. It hurts. If I’m just bein’ honest with ya, it hurts. Because what it does, it puts my mind back into each and every memory. What helped me through this, the peoples that I be performing for that I see it in they faces, where some actually showin’ the same pain that I be feelin’.

One time I was in Canada, Wetland, Wet-something, I forget what that was all about, and I was on stage performing and when I finished I was like drained. And I walked the stage, like to the dressing room and this young kid came right up to me and said “Listen, Charles Bradley, could you please talk to me?”

I said “Huh?” He said “Please talk to me, I just lost my mom.” I said “Oh my god.”

Then I look at him very hard, the kid was just sitting there crying. And I said “How old was your mother” He said “My mother was 51 years old.” I said “My God, that’s too young!”

So I asked him, so I said “Tell ya what, you know, sometimes peoples come on this planet, they don’t really have to be such age, sometimes peoples live to be 20, sometimes a baby is born in a crib and the baby leave this Earth and it’s because that baby had one thing to do on this planet and he’s did it, so God called him home.”

I said “I know you love your mother, but God love her more.” I said “Remember that love she put inside you.”…Hello?

BM: Yep, I’m still here, I’m just enraptured by your story.

CB: So I said “Just remember that you love your mother, but God love her more.” I said “Your mother had finished her work on Earth and so now she store her message inside you, it’s up to you to go forward.”

(At this point a phone rings in the background and Charles Bradley asks me to wait a moment.)

CB: Wow, I got two interviews at the same time.

BM: You’re a busy man, everybody wants a piece.

CB: All I can do is give my heart.

BM: I’ve read about you seeing James Brown influencing you, getting you into it [singing], are there any other singers who influenced you growing up?

CB: I’ma tell you that still today who I love. I love James Brown, I love Barbara Streisand, I love Diana Ross, I love Marvin Gaye. I like, now who’s my favourite, Sam Cooke.

People ask “why’d you pick Barbra Streisand?” I say “Ya’ll listen, when Barbra Streisand made ‘Memories’, ain’t no one can find the depths of my life and soul the way she did.” Listen to those lyrics, and you wanna hear my life story, it fits me so beautifully, that’s why I love “Memories“. But I know Gladys Knight redone it over again but I still love the way Barbra Streisand made it. That’s why she is like one of my favourites.

BM: You hitchhiked a lot over North America, from what I understand.

CB: I hitchhiked, I started in Seattle, Washington, all the way up through Canada, ‘round BC, all the way up in there, just searching, trying to find myself.

So I’ma go out on the road, find my dreams and music always been one of my favourite dreams. It’s like out on the road I ain’t got the money to do it so I got on the road and just kept going. I went some, well, hard times, I met a lot of crazy peoples out there. Somehow, with my faith in God, that’s what kept me going. Now, a lot of people don’t wanna hear that word [God] nowadays, but I’m just speaking of myself and what kept me going. If I would have given up a long time on my faith I would have been, excuse my expression, dead a long time ago. And that’s all the strength, my mom would say “always believe in faith and hope.” And that’s what kept me going.

BM: Your story is incredible; it’s amazing to see how you’ve come so far.

CB: It was scary and I met a lot of hard knocks but now it’s beginning to give me a different change. All that walking, and strength, I’ve been through, it put me through, well, I still don’t believe the things that I’m seeing and things that are beginning to happen to me.

BM: I was searching for information about you with a friend the other day and it seems like you just came out of nowhere, though I know you didn’t, it seems like this has all happened very quickly.

CB: It’s scary, honestly, it’s so scary, all my life, thinking like, seeing myself getting into something really positive, and um, back in, let’s see… Well, I came from an era, how old are you now?

BM: I’m only 27.

CB: Now, I came from an era, back in the ‘50’s, I was born in ‘48 and I’ve seen a lot of things change. I don’t know how I got through a lot of these changes that I been through and come up to this day and have a humble and good heart, still talk. Back in those days, I was afraid to talk ‘cause I was afraid I was gonna lose what I got. You wanna hold on to ya job, you just shut ya mouth and do ya job. And now with things nowadays I’m watching where peoples really want to hear what’s on your mind because they look at my face and they say it’s stress in my face, and they say “Wow. I bet he got something to say.”

BM: That must be a great feeling for you.

CB: It’s a great feeling that now that peoples want to listen to what’s on my mind and in my heart. It’s been a long time coming, if ya heard Sam Cooke sing that famous song “It’s been a long time coming, but I know somewhere a change gonna come.”

BM: Do you sit and write your lyrics? Or do you write as your singing?

CB: A lotta time we do it, we’ll sit down put a cassette on and I just sit and play with it. And as we play with it, we have to go back through it as we tape it and they say “Wow Charles, we gotta put the words just a little more in order and you gotta song.” That’s when a lot of things come out of me, like “Heartaches & Pain”. That came outta me naturally ‘cause all I was doing was telling the truth, what really happened.

BM: That’s quite the song, really an incredible, incredible song.

CB: When you tell the truth about something in your heart it’s easy to go back to saying it, but when the hurt come with it, it’s hard to mention all that. They’re calling me again, hold on one minute. I gotta call from Mike from Canada.

BM: No problem, Charles. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. And I look forward to seeing you when you come to Victoria.

CB: God bless you, thank you very much for the opportunity.

September 3, 2011, Victoria BC - Photo by Blake Morneau

September 3, 2011, Victoria BC - Photo by Blake Morneau