After a months-long battle against cancer, Charles Bradley — soul singer, lover, and fighter to the very end — passed away in Brooklyn on September 23. He was 68.
Last fall, Bradley, touring in support of his third full-length album, 2016's Changes, canceled a run of dates upon receiving his stomach cancer diagnosis. Following treatment and rest, the cancer retreated to the point where Bradley was not only able to return to the stage he so dearly loved, but deliver some of his most powerful performances to date.
Bradley frequently made his way into the crowd to embrace his fans in the final stretch of his shows, a rare talent who gave a whole new meaning to reaching out. This propensity to connect thrives as the warm undercurrent of his music, from the first singles he recorded with the Sugarman 3 and the Menahan Street Band to Changes. His career began after he was discovered performing James Brown cover sets under the name of Black Velvet in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Over the course of it, every one of his three LPs repeatedly begged the listener to cling to love and the pursuit of understanding in the face of adversity and hatred, with "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" and "Why Is It So Hard" off 2011's No Time for Dreaming striking particularly poignant chords.
When he died, Bradley was in Brooklyn and surrounded by friends and family, including many of the musicians he had worked with over the years. He was surrounded, and embraced, by love.