Screaming Eagle of Soul Charles Bradley on hugs, James Brown and singing himself hoarse

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2013 


    WHERE: The Pour House, 1977 Maybank Hwy., Charleston

    WHEN: 8 p.m. April 18

    COST: $15; $18 at the door


Following a performance by Charles Bradley and The Extraordinaires during last month's South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, pictures and video surfaced of the 62-year-old Bradley climbing from the stage and making his way through the crowd, hugging everyone and anyone in his path.

To the uninitiated, these public displays of affection might have seemed unorthodox or even charming, but they're not rare.

Bradley said he regularly ventures into the crowd and isn't content to stop after the first few rows.

"I want to be able to get close to the people who came to see us play and I like to go all the way to the back," said Bradley, his voice still raspy from a performance the night before. "I like going back there because whenever I went to see a show, I was always way in the back and I want the people back there to feel like part of the show, too."

Bradley will perform at 8 p.m. April 18 at The Pour House in Charleston as part of a tour promoting his second full-length album, "Victim of Love," which was released April 2 to rave reviews from Paste Magazine, CMJ and The Boston Globe.

A onetime James Brown impersonator, Bradley comes into his own on "Victim of Love," a record that showcases the power and depth of his voice and tells the story of a life lived hard.

"This record is truly my way of telling people about the things I've been through, about the hardships, about the times that I felt stripped of my identity," Bradley said. "I've been harassed by the police, spent 30 to 40 days in jail for no real reason, but I never stopped believing in people and in the goodness of people. That's what this album is about."

Bradley discusses James Brown, how he protects his voice and how he's taken to his nickname, "The Screaming Eagle of Soul."

Question. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a musician?

Answer. When I saw James Brown at The Apollo Theater. I just saw him perform and thought, "I got to be like that guy." So, when I got home, I got a broom, tied it up and tried to sing and dance like he did. At the time, he was doing this dance called "The Slide," which had been around for a while but he just made his own. I loved that.

Q. What is it that you love about soul music and why do you think it resonates so powerfully with people?

A. For me, soul is really about singing from your heart. It's like you're feeling something but to sing it doesn't feel powerful enough so you start screaming. And it feels like in one lyric, you're singing a thousand. And that scream hurts so deep and hurts so sweetly. No matter what kind of bad is going on in my life, I can just bring that into my music and I go into my zone.

Q. It seems like you almost sing yourself hoarse every performance, how do you protect your voice?

A. Well, for one, I trust in the Lord. I say, "Lord, this is the gift you have given to me and have allowed me to share with so many people," so I trust that he will help take care of me. But I also go down to Chinatown and get teas. I drink a lot of herbal teas, bitter melon, things like that. You've got to protect your voice, like after a show, people want to talk and I so badly want to spend time with them, but I have to say no sometimes because I need to rest.

Q. Where did your nickname, "The Screaming Eagle of Soul," come from?

A. That was a name that Mikey D from The Budos Band gave me. When I get really into it, I guess the way I dance, I kind of flap my wings and he thought it looked kind of like an eagle and so he started calling me that.

Q. What do you hope people take away from your shows?

A. I just want to go on stage and give the people something that they can feel and that they never forget and that makes them run and tell their friends, "Man, you just got to go see that old guy play because he gives you your money's worth." That's what I want because every time I get on stage, I perform like it's my last show.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at


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