Coming: Charles Bradley’s Final Record–”Black Velvet”

Coming: Charles Bradley’s Final Record–”Black Velvet”

October 2, 2018 Off By Billy Thieme

I had the unmatched privilege of seeing Charles Bradley at the Larimer Lounge the day after my 47th birthday, in August 2013. Touring his second record, Victim of Love, Bradley was still shooting up into fame in his career – at 65 – but he never showed any sign of age. With nothing but grace, he took over the small, historic venue and each person’s body and soul inside with his piercing, soulful howls, his never-ending smiles, and the depth of heart in his wild, gleaming eyes.

Heartbreakingly, Bradley died in September, 2017, after being diagnosed with stomach cancer just about a year earlier. His soulful stardom, where he infused what started out as a James Brown impersonator’s gig years earlier, lasted a mere seven years – but it brought so much more to the lives of those who got to see the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” live. I know it’s a show I will never forget.

And now, according to Bradley’s former label Daptone Records, the world is about to be graced once more with his voice and heart, when the label’s Dunham imprint releases Black Velvet, a posthumous album that is already available for pre-order, on November 9 – just a few short days after Bradley would have turned 70.

According to Dunham:

Black Velvet is a celebration of Charles Bradley, lovingly assembled by his friends and family at Dunham/Daptone Records. Though chronologically the material spans Charles’ entire career, this is no anthology, greatest hits or other shallow rehashing of the songs that already made him famous. Rather, this album is a profound exploration through the less-traveled corners of the soulful universe that Charles and his longtime producer, co-writer and friend Tommy “TNT” Brenneck created in the studio together over their decade-long partnership.

Like Bradley’s third album, Changes, this collection promises to be brilliant, and humble – just like the man was himself. With some covers that should give the previous album’s namesake a run for their money – including a Nirvana cover, one from Neil Young, and more – we should be feeling Bradley once again.

When I saw him that August night in 2013 at the Larimer, Bradley all but leaped off the low stage after what we all thought would be his last song of the night, and just about ran to the merch table by the bar up front, where I handed his sweating hands a copy of Victim of Love to sign. He did, and when I reached out to shake his hand to thank him, he pulled me in for a hug – heat and sweat still glowing off of him from the workout onstage.

Before he let go, he seemed to freeze just for a second, as a voice from the stage shouted out something like “And here he comes, back to give you, his brothers and sisters some more of the loving soul you’re here for!” Charles pulled back, looked at me, and then the assistant that had helped him through the crowd after the set, and said: “Did you hear him? Another set! Oh – I am so tired! And another set…”

But his face and body belied what he was shouting as he ran back to the stage – glowing with excitement and what seemed like boundless energy – and gave us another glimpse of the superstar he truly was.

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  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.