XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Lucifer” by Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley | Photo by Giles Clement (@gilesclement)

In September, 2017, R&B singer Charles Bradley sadly passed away from stomach cancer. Almost a year after he passed away, a collection of original songs and covers called Black Velvet was released.

“Black Velvet” was the name Bradley used when he was working as a James Brown impersonator. What he learned from the Godfather of Soul was visceral, touching and funky. Bradley had the dance moves, the howls, the yelps, the songs, and the screams, but he turned them into his own with a remarkable, singular voice.

Now come two new songs, co-written by Charles with James Levy, and recorded after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2016. Weakened and slowed down by chemotherapy, facing a life threatening surgery and confronting his own mortality in a moment of political upheaval and uncertainty, Bradley went into a Queens home recording studio and spontaneously recorded what would his final two songs: “Lucifer” and “Lonely as You Are.”

“Lucifer” is a soaring soulful jam, and captures The Screaming Eagle of Soul at a bittersweet moment of his life, at the crossroads of life and death, knowing finality was close up ahead. Recorded during President Obama’s final days in the White House, Bradley sings: “Obama! You’ve done what you had to do. Change the world!”

In July 2017, Bradley performed at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival, and I had the joy of working with him closely when I was on stage producing the show. During a break in the set, as he walked off stage for a costume change, I could sense he was feeling a little weak. As he was getting ready to go back on stage, I asked him how he was and he turned to me and said, “I’m fine, brother. I got the love. If you don’t got love, you don’t got nothing. And it starts right here,” he said, touching his chest where his heart was with his fist. He then grabbed me and gave me one of the warmest, most heartfelt hugs I’ve ever received. He proceeded to finish the show in a blaze of glory, jumping into the audience, handing out roses and hugging the fans, as he typically did during his shows. Little did I know then that he would be gone two months later.

Thankfully, with two new songs from Charles, we can hold on to his memory and his music a little longer. Listen to “Lucifer” below.

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