Savannah Music Festival headliner Charles Bradley is a flagship artist on Daptone Records, the label that gave us Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and other artists who re-kindle the funk, soul, sweat and excitement of classic rhythm ‘n' blues music from the 1960s and ‘70s.
He has been nicknamed "The Screaming Eagle of Soul."
Born in Florida in 1948, Bradley had a rough life, full of hardship and tragedy, and was literally saved by music. He first saw James Brown at New York's legendary Apollo Theatre in 1962, and then and there dedicated himself to perfecting the godfather of soul's moves and demeanor. But it was many years later before anyone began to take notice - in the mid 1990s, Bradley worked as Black Velvet, a JB impersonator.
He was signed with Daptone just a year or two ago, and the label paired him with a crackerjack band called the Extraordinaires. "These guys are my sons," he tells us. "I call them my sons, especially the youngest. The Extraodinaries. They're just the sweetest guys that can be."
His first album, No Time For Dreaming, was released in 2011.
Do you think it was your destiny to be an entertainer?
Charles Bradley: I always wanted to be an artist. I love oil painting, and that's what I wanted to be. I always liked to grab sticks as micophones and play with ‘em, until I saw James Brown throw the mic, play with the mic, right then I kinda made my mind up what I wanted to do.
Loving people, and people loving me, I think truly that's my destiny. Because I've always been that way. My mama always said to me Charles, you're too sensitive. I'm afraid that somebody's gonna use you up because you're so sensitive. When I try to change, I don't feel right. I feel completely lost. But when I started being my true self, I feel humble. I feel good. A little boy just came alive in me. It's beautiful.
You struggled for a long time. Are you making money off this yet?
Charles Bradley: I like to be comfortable. I'm not trying to take everything from the world. If I do make a lot of money, yes I'm going to keep something for myself. But when I see people going through hardships like I am, I' do good deeds and try to help them.
How much JB is in what you do, how much Otis, and how much Charles Bradley?
Charles Bradley: If you look into James Brown, look into Otis Redding, look into Sam Cooke, and you look into me, we're all in that same aura. And that spirit brings the truth out. That's where I'm at. And I never know how deep my depths can go, but I know I'm seeking my depths more deeper and deeper to find deeper love, deeper who I am, and deeper understanding of life and humanity.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires perform March 21, 2013 in the Trustees Theater.