Finding his way home

Finding his way home
South African message singer Vusi Mahlasela (left) and American soul singer Charles Bradley will perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 12 March 2014

By all accounts, American soul singer Charles Bradley went through a tough life. He slept on the streets, battled depression and traversed the length and breadth of North America doing odd jobs to stay alive.

In 2011, at the age of 62, the former James Brown impersonator finally released his debut album, No Time For Dreaming, whose success means the man now spends his time telling his stories in song to audiences all around the world.

His current world tour includes a stop at the Esplanade Concert Hall tomorrow for the Mosaic Music Festival, in a double-bill gig with South African singer Vusi Mahlasela.

Speaking to Life! in a telephone interview from Melbourne, where he was performing, the gavel-voiced singer says of his late-blooming music career: "I've been looking for this opportunity for a long time, I've been out there fighting for my music for a long time.

Sometimes it hurts, it's bittersweet, but I thank God I found it and that the people saw me and loved me and gave me the opportunity.

"And even though I'm singing and going out to the world, it doesn't change me. It just makes me open up and sing to the world, all the experiences that I've been through."

The 2012 feature documentary Charles Bradley: Soul Of America includes scenes of him sleeping in his mother's basement in Brooklyn, which he moved back to in the mid-1990s after periods of homelessness, and explores his personal tragedies, including his brother's murder a stone's throw from his mother's house and his near-death from a penicillin allergy.

It also documents the lead-up to the release of his debut album, which garnered wide critical acclaim and led to gigs at music festivals worldwide.

"It's given me a chance to open my heart and find the people out there, find love and find the part of me that I should have known a long time ago, and learn to be honest and sincere and keep going and let the world know who I really am.

"You know, honestly, what I found about people all over the world, people are people. You got some bad ones and good ones. But you got to learn how to carry your quality and love and dignity that you want to give to the world, let the world know that you are a true instrument of life."

His second album, Victim Of Love, released last year, was also highly rated. In Rolling Stone magazine's review of the album, it compared him with soul and funk greats such as James Brown and Otis Redding.

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