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‘Screaming Eagle of Soul’ Funk/R&B Singer Charles Bradley, Dead at 68

R.I.P. Charles Bradley (11/5/48 – 9/23/17)

Legendary soul musician Charles Bradley, whose music career didn’t begin until he was in his 40s, died after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 68.

News of Bradley’s death was first announced via the artist’s official Twitter account. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Charles Bradley. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Nicknamed the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” Bradley was a powerhouse of a musician, who was constantly on the road, performing night-after-night, city-after-city for hundreds of fans. However, last year, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and needed to undergo treatment. Although doctor’s said he was okay to head back on the road—according to Billboard, they found no sign of cancer in his stomach—he was forced to cancel 37 scheduled tour dates, as it had spread to his liver.

“I love all of you out there that made my dreams come true. When I come back, I’ll come back strong, with God’s love. With God’s will, I’ll be back soon,” Bradley said, back when news of his diagnosis was first made public.

Bradley’s representatives told Rolling Stone, “Thank you for your prayers during this difficult time. 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.”

Born in Gainsville, Fla., Bradley was abandoned by his mother at eight months old and left to be raised by his grandmother until the age of 8, when his mother took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, he went with his sister to see James Brown at the Apollo Theater and became inspired by his sound.

At the age of 14, he ran away from home and enlisted in the Job Corps up in Bar Harbor, Maine, where he worked as a chef. After his bandmates were drafted to serve in Vietnam, and working as a cook for ten years, he decided to hitchhike across the country, before moving back to Brooklyn.

Bradley was performing as a James Brown impersonator, going by the stage name “Black Velvet,” before he was discovered by Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records—Brooklyn independent funk/soul revival label—and by 2002 he had released his first record.

His music has been frequently used in pop culture, on such television shows as American Dad!, Alpha House, Spotless, Legends of Tomorrow, Suits, Luke Cage, and Ray Donovan. He was also the subject of the documentary film, Soul of America, which premiered at SXSW in 2012.


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