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A Conversation with Charles Bradley

– Evan O’Brien, Roots N Blues Intern

“Cherish the moments with your mother, because they don’t last forever.” These were the closing remarks in one of the most real conversations I’ve ever had with none other than Charles Bradley, an acclaimed Roots N Blues alumnus. I saw Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires for the first time last September at Loufest in St. Louis. I considered myself a relatively new fan, considering I had been introduced to his music earlier that year. After witnessing his set at Loufest, I immediately immersed myself in his music: buying vinyls, getting merch, etc. 

While his performances of hit songs like “The World (Is Going Up in Flames),” “Victim of Love,” and “Ain’t It a Sin” were fantastic, his choice of closing song was the tipping point of my transition from casual to devoted fan. “Changes,” the title song off his latest album, is a cover of a 1972 Black Sabbath song. Bradley then proclaimed his intention behind the song to the St. Louis crowd: it was a tribute to his deceased mother. Bradley continued on to discuss how he and his mother were estranged, and how much regret he had about their relationship.

As I stood in the crowd flanked by my mother, we both had tears in our eyes listening to the lyrics: “It took so long to realize I could still hear her last goodbyes. Now all my days are filled with tears. Wish I could go back and change these years.” I remember thinking how lucky I am to have such a great relationship with my mom.

After the show, we saw Charles head down to the front row to take pictures and talk with fans. Before I could even begin to head down there, I felt my mom tugging my shirt in that direction, so we headed down to speak with the Screaming Eagle of Soul. We waited at the back of the line until finally we had the chance to see him. I reached my hand out, expecting to see his in return. Instead, I was greeted by both of his arms reaching out and embracing first me and then my mom. He asked if this was my mom, still holding on to her despite a sweaty, shirtless body. When I replied with yes, he spent the next 30 minutes telling story after story about his mother, infusing casual words of advice about what not to do with mine while still holding her: “Cherish the moments with your mother, because they don’t last forever,” he said right before he hugged me and walked backstage. This may have been just another show to Charles Bradley; but, to me it was an experience no concert or festival will ever be able to top.