Campfire Preview: Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

by: Jeff Cavanaugh
August 12, 2014

When we are growing up, we all have big dreams. Whether it was playing in the NFL, fronting a rock band or becoming a movie star — we all set our sights high but  very few people actually get to live out their biggest dreams.

In 1962, at just 14 years old, Charles Bradley was a dreamer like the rest of us. But when he went to see James Brown in concert at the legendary Apollo Theater his focus changed and his dreams were redirected — all he wanted was to become a star in the music industry.


From that night on, Bradley continued mimicking James Brown’s style of singing and practicing Brown’s unique stage moves. But after decades of personal struggle, tragedy and many nights spent sleeping in the streets or on subway benches — it was highly unlikely that Charles Bradley would ever see his name in the lights. For years, he bounced around from state to state and city to city just trying to get by.

It was when Bradley moved back to Brooklyn in 1996 that he finally started making progress toward his ultimate goal. He worked many nights as a James Brown impersonator named “Black Velvet” in local night clubs and was finally discovered by Daptone Records’ Gabe Roth — Charles Bradley finally made it.

In 2011, at 62 years old, Bradley released his debut album, No Time for Dreaming. Think about it — a debut album at 62 years old. Bruce Springsteen released 16 studio albums before turning 62 and the Rolling Stones released 25 studio albums before frontman Mick Jagger hit 62 years old. Bradley’s feat is as remarkable as it is improbable — but that journey, chronicled in the critically acclaimed 2012 documentary Soul of America — brings Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires to the headlining slot on Friday night, August 29 at the Campfire Music & Outdoor Festival in Lakewood, Pennsylvania.


Touring in support of his second full length album, 2013’s Victim of Love, Charles Bradley is getting rave reviews at every stop along the way. His debut album was named as one of Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of 2011 — and the Screaming Eagle of Soul’s follow-up is just as strong, but with a more hopeful outlook and a more obvious psychedelic influence than the first collection of songs. And if you see any of Bradley’s performances on YouTube — you know the songs come across even better live.

When I was talking to Amy Helm last week for a story about her Friday night performance at the Campfire Festival, I asked her which band she was most looking forward to checking out at the festival. And without hesitation, she said Charles Bradley. The entire festival is going to make for a great Labor Day Weekend for all music fans, but it will be hard to find another musician on stage with more passion, more appreciation or a better story than Charles Bradley.

For more information on Charles Bradley, you can find it on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Tickets are available online and come in a variety of packages, some of which include tickets and accommodations in an on-site, fully-equipped cabin. Other affordable stay and play options include RV passes and general and VIP camping options.

For more information, visit the Campfire Festival website or you can follow the latest updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Categories: Music, Pennsylvania, Travel

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