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Charles Bradley (Photo courtesy of Kisha Bari)

Charles Bradley: Why Is It So Hard to Make It in America?

Originally published: Medium with music video from KEXP (November 14, 2012)

Soul is in anything.

If you got a clean heart and a clean mind and you have been abused, used, and refused—that is soul.

If you know you’ve been hurt and the world is doing you so wrong but you keep a clean heart—that is soul.

Soul is a spirit. It can be in country and western and it can be in rock. It can be in anything. It is when the soul and heart and the mind are clean. The reason I like soul and funky music is because of how they play it and get their spirit into it. They pump it out. I can look at the music and the way they are playing it and feel my past. They way they play lets my spirit open and tune into the spirit world. When I feel the spirit world and they are playing it that way, Oh, you are going to get a show! You are going to get some funky music and everyone is going to feel that rhythm and feel that soul. It is coming from the spirit world and that is the deepest you can go. You can go on the surface of yourself, go on stage and sing beautiful words, but if you are not in the spirit—you ain’t got nothing. All you are doing is singing words to the music, making sounds. But when you can go past that and go into the spirit world, that is where all your energy is. Everything you do on this planet is in the spirit and that is why I believe in it. That is where you find so much soul.

Can soul music save the world?

One way we can save this world is if each person knew when they were wrong. Don’t keep your wrongness and carry it your whole life. Don’t think you are getting away with it. If you keep it and bring offspring into this world, that offspring is going to make those same mistakes. We don’t get away with things. When you know in your heart that you did something wrong and you don’t confront it, that same pattern will keep coming over and over again. All we can teach humanity is to know your wrongness. Correct yourself and then the world will change. All these material things are gonna use you. They aren’t loving you. They are loving what you got. Yes, I want nice things but I want somebody to love me. When I am not sure of who I am, and not loving all those the Spirit asks me to love, life is hard. My mom said all the time, “Son, be of good cheer, do good to those who do you wrong. Later on in life you will see what you learned.” My pastors said, “Son, keep pressed in your way.” Pressed in your way means making it through corruption and keeping that love. When they try to change you, you keep pressing. Know that God is somewhere watching you and pressing your way through all of this. I have been to my deathbed and back and seen so much in this life. You need to keep going and that is why I am doing this music, living on the road, playing all these shows. I am letting the people know who I am. I want to open my soul and my heart. I want them to look at me and then ask themselves if they have done anyone wrong. We need to open our hearts to open minds. We need to stay open, not closed up.


Charles Bradley, also known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul.” He has travelled all over America, singing soul, and working as a James Brown impersonator. In 2011, Charles released No Time For Dreaming, an album of his own songs, becoming an instant star. A film about Charles, called Soul of America, was released in 2012. thecharlesbradley.com

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