Five things you didn't know about Charles Bradley

The sexagenerian soul singer tells us some little-known facts about his extraordinary life

Photo: Elizabeth Weinberg
To have released a debut album in your sixties is no mean feat. To have done so following the murder of your brother, years spent living on the streets and an upbringing as harsh as it was humble is truly remarkable. Charles Bradley’s story is now the subject of ‘Soul of America’, a documentary charting the extraordinary life of this late-blooming soul singer in the years leading up to his first album. We spoke to Bradley to find out five things most people don’t know about him, including how love, his mum and a parrot called Nicky have helped him through.

1. He looks after his mum.
‘When I’m on tour, I always miss mom. She’s lived with me since she saw my brother lying on the floor after he got shot. She cried so hard and I said, “From this day on, I take care of you.” Every time I go away, she asks if it’s the last time she’ll ever see me. That reaches into my heart and twists it so hard.’

2. He didn’t choose his parrot, it chose him.
‘I’ve had my macaw for 23 years. I went to a bird show one day with a friend and one of these parrots just came right across and walked onto my arm – it was so beautiful, but expensive. Then it said, “Hello,” and I knew I had to find a way to take Nicky home.’

3. Love really does make his world go round.
‘Love everybody as you want to be loved, and you will get it back in return. When you’re real and you’re honest and you’re open, everyone can see the goodness inside you. Some of the shows I do have my spirit up so high that it takes me until the next morning to come down.’

4. He’s not a fan of separation.
‘I went to the Berlin Wall when we were touring Europe. Someone showed me how it went across the city and broke it in half. I thought that was outrageous.’

5. The Eagles helped him fly.
‘Back in the late 1970s, I was going through some hard times and I was hurting so bad. I went to this Italian restaurant and just sat there wanting to escape the world. Then someone put a quarter in the jukebox and “Take It to the Limit” by The Eagles came on. I needed to hear that – to take it to the limit one more time. Lyrics can help you find the good inside the pain. That’s the power of music.’

‘Charles Bradley: Soul of America’ is out now on DVD. Buy it here.

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