The late soul revivalist Charles Bradley‘s ample musical gifts were exceeded by his overflowing sincerity as a performer. Like his Daptone label-mate Sharon Jones (who also passed this year), Bradley could make a timeless genre feel incredibly immediate and personal. He was known as the “Screaming Eagle of Soul,” and he wasn’t above hamming it up a bit with his dancing, but the gravitational pull in his music came from his heart.
Bradley was “discovered” late in his life and on his debut album, released at the age of 62, he sang about decades of heartbreak and struggle. His performances carried the conviction of somebody who didn’t take a moment of his new musical life for granted. He sang, he danced, he cried out, he fell to his knees and pleaded. At the end, with his suit darkened by sweat, he’d repeatedly tell the audience how much he loved them.
Last summer, on a cooling August night, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires performed one of his signature songs, “Lovin’ You Baby” for a sprawling crowd in the forest at Pickathon. In an epilogue from the stage, he delivered his universalist message of love for all. This would be his next-to-last time performing. Charles Bradley died September 23. He was 68.
Every month this year opbmusic and NPR Music will present another episode from the Pickathon Woods Stage. These videos are hand-picked by opbmusic to showcase some of the most compelling performances captured at Pickathon. Look for the next premiere in mid January.
The Pickathon Woods Series was made possible by support from Klean Kanteen.