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Jeff Moehlis: Charles Bradley’s Soul Power

Late-blooming soul singer to perform Wednesday at UCSB's Campbell Hall

There is a showbiz adage that “Talent will out,” which is a grammatically dubious way of saying that if you have talent and stick with it, eventually your talent will be appreciated.

As a case in point, consider Charles Bradley, who will be performing at Campbell Hall on Wednesday night as part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures series.

Bradley has had a tough life. He has constantly lived in poverty, and was even homeless for part of his childhood.

He worked for years as a cook at a hospital for the mentally ill in New York, then as a chef in San Francisco, and when he got laid off from the latter job, he moved to Brooklyn to be with his family, working as a handyman. In Brooklyn he almost died from an allergic reaction to penicillin, and his brother was murdered.

Through all this, going all the way back to seeing James Brown perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1962, Bradley dreamed of being a singer.

He found some success as a Brown impersonator in Brooklyn under the monikers “Black Velvet” and “James Brown Jr.,” eventually catching the attention of Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records.

Charles Bradley
Charles Bradley

Bradley started releasing his own music as singles on Daptone Records in 2002, and by the time his first album, No Time for Dreaming, was released in 2011, he was the ripe age of 62.

And it turns out that the album is awesome, with an old-school soul music vibe that gives it a timeless quality. Among the album’s honors was it being named one of the Top 50 albums of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.

But, great as the album is, the word is that Bradley really shines in concert and lives up to his nickname as the “Screaming Eagle of Soul.” Bradley is the real deal, a genuine talent who is finally getting his due.

Be sure to catch him at Campbell Hall, where he’ll be backed by the Menahan Street Band, which includes musicians who played on Bradley’s album and on Amy Winehouse’s acclaimed album Back to Black.

Bradley will be performing at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Campbell Hall on the UC Santa Barbara campus. Click here for tickets.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site,

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