Charles Bradley had a lot on his mind when he recorded “Lonely as You Are” and “Lucifer” during the final days of the Obama presidency. A stomach cancer diagnosis in the Fall of 2016 forced him off the road at the peak of his career. Weakened by months of chemotherapy, facing a life-threatening surgery and confronting his own mortality in a moment of political upheaval and uncertainty, Bradley was filled with ideas and energy when he stepped into a Queens home recording studio and spontaneously created “Lonely as You Are” and “Lucifer.”
Shortly after “Lonely as You Are” was released, fans were invited to submit photographs, drawings and stories via social media using the hashtag #leftuslonely, to be used to create a music video. More than 500 submissions were posted and the resulting music video — a compilation of fan contributions — is being released today. The song, in which Bradley is backed by Seth Avett and Mike Marsh from the Avett Brothers, was co-produced by James Levy and Paul Defiglia. “Lonely as You Are” and “Lucifer” are Bradley’s final recordings.
Also, out today via Innit Recordings is a limited edition 12” vinyl pressing of the two singles with instrumental versions, featuring the iconic cover photo shot by Giles Clement at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival.
The recordings showcase two sides of Bradley. In the heartrending “Lonely As You Are,” Bradley confronts unspeakable pain, mortality and hope “Lucifer” — a soaring, uptempo soul jam filled with his Bradley’s trademark scream and joyful lyrics — finds Bradley celebrating life and love. “When I look into your eyes and saw the great star, I knew I had a love right there. I wanna love you, love you, love you, love you.”
“Charles knew what he wanted to say and he said it quickly. He wore his heart on his sleeve. A true singer,” said James Levy, who co-wrote the songs with Bradley and also co-produced the tracks.
The Queens, NY sessions marked an improbable collaboration between Bradley and Levy, who had worked most recently on projects with Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Tim Wheeler of Ash and Guy Berryman of Coldplay. Levy was recording demos for a new record when he connected with Bradley through their mutual manager. To finish the tracks, Levy enlisted Nashville producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Defiglia, who had spent the previous five years recording and touring with the Avett Brothers.
The remarkable against-all-odds rise of Charles Bradley since the release of his 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming has been well documented. Transcending a life in the streets, Bradley went from extreme poverty and homelessness to performing sold-out shows and making national TV and festival appearances around the world, including at Coachella, Governors Ball, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, SXSW and many more.
Poull Brien's 2012 documentary — Charles Bradley: Soul of America — gave a glimpse into how Bradley turned pain and heartbreak into joy and love. One of the great live performers of his time, Bradley’s 2016 appearance on CBS This Morning: Saturday was nominated for a 2017 Daytime Emmy award for “Outstanding On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program.”
In celebration of his amazing life and to commemorate what would have been Bradley’s 70th birthday, Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records released Black Velvet in November 2018 — a collection of 10 songs recorded during the sessions from each of his previous three albums, produced by Tom Brenneck and performed by the Menahan Street Band. Charles also appears on the “A” side of Daptones’ 100th Forty-Five - “Hey Brother,” released in June 2019.
Innit Recordings is a record label based in NYC. Current artists include Lolawolf, James Levy and Crewshade.