Charles Bradley came by the raw emotion in his voice honestly. He was really only famous for six of his 68 years on this planet; the remaining 62 were filled with struggle and sorrow, from the nights he spent sleeping on New York City subway trains as a teenager to the murder of his brother Joe, who Bradley described as “the backbone of the family” in a 2011 interview, in the late 1990s. He saw James Brown perform in the ’60s, hitchhiked across America in the ’70s, and spent most of the ’80s and ’90s working odd jobs out in California. It wasn’t until he returned home to Brooklyn in 1996 that music started paying his bills. And it wasn’t even his music: Bradley worked for more than 15 years as a James Brown impersonator, chasing a dream that began when he saw The Godfather Of Soul live at the Apollo Theater back in 1962. Bradley’s stage name for his impersonator act was “Black Velvet”—a moniker that his friend and longtime producer Tommy “TNT” Brenneck borrowed for the title of Bradley’s posthumous final album, released this week on Daptone imprint Dunham Records. Black Velvet is cobbled together from sessions throughout Bradley’s professional career: Lead single “Can’t Fight The Feeling” was recorded in 2007, four years before the release of his debut full-length, No Time For Dreaming, while instrumental “Black Velvet” was recorded by Bradley’s backing group, the Menahan Street Band, shortly before Bradley’s death from cancer in September of 2017…. [Read full story]
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