In late 2016, Charles Bradley faced his greatest challenge in a lifetime filled with challenges. A stomach cancer diagnosis earlier that fall forced him off the road at the peak of his career. Weakened by months of chemotherapy, facing a potentially life threatening surgery and confronting his own mortality, Bradley stepped into a home recording studio in Queens, NY and spontaneously created “Lonely as You Are.”
Eyes closed and seated, Bradley listened to the looping track and began to speak and sing lyrics on the spot, expressing hope that “one day when God says well done” he’d be reunited in heaven with his mother, grandmother, and other loved ones. He concludes the cathartic recording with the statement: “I love you. And this is Charles Bradley. I hope this one day gets out to the world.”
Bradley’s hope is fulfilled with the release today of “Lonely as You Are” (with Bradley backed by Seth Avett and Mike Marsh from the Avett Brothers, along with co-producers James Levy and Paul Defiglia) to be followed in May by another track from that session, “Lucifer.” These are Bradley’s final recordings.
“Charles knew “Lonely as You Are” could comfort people and help them find a way to deal with their own loneliness. He was always looking for ways to make people feel better, even when he was confronting his own pain and suffering. He asked that “Lonely” be played at his funeral; he wanted to share it with the world,” says Executive Producer Morton Lorge, Bradley’s former co-manager (with his partner, current Def Jam EVP/GM Rich Isaacson).
These sessions marked an improbable collaboration between Bradley and NYC recording artist, songwriter and producer James Levy. Working out of his Queens home studio, Levy was recording demos for a follow-up to a previous album produced by Guy Berryman of Coldplay and an EP released by Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records. Levy shared the chorus and music of “Lonely as You Are” with Bradley, who wrote verses on the spot.
To finish the tracks, Levy and Lorge enlisted Nashville producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Defiglia, who had spent the previous five years recording and touring with the Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim. Defiglia, who plays bass, piano and organ on both tracks, brought in Avett Brothers colleagues Seth Avett (acoustic guitar) and Mike Marsh (drums) for “Lonely.”
12 time Grammy winner Jay Newland mixed “Lonely as You Are” and two time Grammy nominee Alan Silverman mastered it. Giles Clement, of Nashville, shot the cover photo during the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.
The Bradley-Levy-Defilgia collaboration lead to Somebody – a James Levy album produced by Paul Defiglia and recorded in Nashville. Songs of Love, the first release from that album, along with an official music video by Crackerfarm, will also be released by Innit Recordings, on May 10, 2019.
The remarkable against-all-odds rise of Charles Bradley since the release of his 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming has been well documented. Transcending a life in the streets, Bradley went from extreme poverty and homelessness to performing sold out shows and making national TV and festival appearances around the world, including at Coachella, Governors Ball, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, SXSW and many more. Poull Brien’s 2012 documentary — Charles Bradley: Soul of America — gave a glimpse into how Bradley turned pain and heartbreak into joy and love. One of the great live performers of his time, Bradley’s 2016 appearance on CBS This Morning: Saturday was nominated for a 2017 Daytime Emmy award for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.” In celebration of his amazing life and to commemorate what would have been Bradley’s 70th birthday, Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records in November 2018 released Black Velvet — a collection of ten songs recorded during the sessions from each of his previous three albums, produced by Tom Brenneck and performed by the Menahan Street Band.