It’s been a banner year for Charles Bradley. And with a past as turbulent as his, checkered by childhood abandonment, homelessness, illness, poverty, and family deaths, he couldn’t deserve it more. Now 63, Bradley began his career at 14, by doing covers of late-great James Brown. After dedicating multiple decades to that pursuit, he decided to take a chance at finding his own voice. The gamble paid off, with the public embracing his soulful sound, and Bradley soon found himself opening for soul/funk singer Sharon Jones. Through continuing patches of adversity, Bradley managed to achieve his dream and put out his own album in January 2011, titled No Time for Dreaming. The critical success of the album was astonishing, and it even garnered a place on Rolling Stone’s List of 50 Best Albums of the year. Since topping the charts with No Time for Dreaming, Bradley has embarked on an ongoing worldwide tour, and has made multiple appearances on popular talk shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Last Call with Carson Daly.
His latest labor, however, comes in the form of a documentary-style film, titled Charles Bradley: Soul of America, directed by Poull Brien. Brien first encountered Bradley’s music while working on a construction site in the summer of 2010, and was moved enough by what he heard to send an email to Bradley’s label offering his services as director for a low budget music video: he believed in the idea so strongly he even offered to do the project for free. Two months later, pre-production began on what is now Charles Bradley: Soul of America, an intimate portrait of the singer that touches on his turbulent past and focuses on his astonishing rise to fame. The documentary, which clocks in at 74 minutes, will make its debut at this year’s upcoming SXSW Film Festival, which begins March 9.
Check out the trailer for this skillfully crafted film that documents the rise of a future legend, and for information on Bradley’s upcoming tour dates (he was recently confirmed for an appearance at Bonnaroo!) check out his website here.