I’ve written a lot about JOVM Charles Bradley throughout this site’s nine-plus year history. The Jacksonville, FL-born, Brooklyn-based soul singer/songwriter led a remarkable and inspiring life, overcoming unimaginable adversity, releasing four albums, 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, 2013’s Victim of Love, 2016’s Changes, and last year’s posthumously released Black Velvet — and appearing in two documentaries Charles Bradley: Soul of America and the Daptone Records live documentary, Living on Soul filmed during the 2014 Daptone Records Soul Revue residency at the legendary Apollo Theater.
In late 2016, Bradley faced what would be one the greatest challenges in a lifetime filled with challenges. A stomach cancer diagnosis earlier during that fall forced him to cancel a busy touring schedule. Weakened by months of chemotherapy, facing a potentially life threatening surgery and confronting his own mortality, Bradley stepped into a home recording studio in Queens and spontaneously created “Lonely as You Are.” Featuring a looping piano sequence, shuffling drumming and gently strummed guitars, the track features Bradley’s imitable and achingly soulful vocals speaking and singing lyrics that express his profound loneliness, the tacit awareness of his impending mortality, his hope to be reunited with his mother and grandmother in heaven and his hope to leave something that connects with fans and others once he was gone. While the song is centered around a sparse instrumental arrangement of The Avett Brothers‘ Seth Avett (guitar) and Mike Marsh (drums) and co-producers James Levy and The Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim‘s Paul Defigilia (bass, piano and organ and co-production), the track manages to be a great example of Bradley’s powerfully earnest soulfulness — and a comforting plea to other lonely souls out there. But more importantly, it’s an achingly sincere tear-jerker of a song.
The song ends with Bradley saying “I love you. And this is Charles Bradley. I hope this one days get out to the world.” Part of his hope has been realized with the song being released to the public. And while the song is sad and inspired by one of life’s most profound events, it’s also a reminder of how a great artist’s work can resonate with us long after they’ve left.
After the release of “Lonely as You Are,” Charles Bradley fans were invited to submit photographs, artwork and stories through social media using the hashtag #leftuslonely to be used to create an accompanying music video. Over 500 submissions were posted and the resulting video — an edited compilation of those fan contributions — was recently released. It’s a poignant reminder of what Bradley and his music meant to his fans.