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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 5.0° F  Fair
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Charles Bradley turns hard knocks into compelling soul music
From the streets to the stage
'I don't want to be a robot.'
'I don't want to be a robot.'

For much of his life, Charles Bradley battled hardship upon hardship. At times, he found himself living on the streets. Soul music was a bright spot during these rough periods. Watching his hero, James Brown, convinced him to perform even when the going got tough. Then lightning struck in 2002: Gabriel Roth, cofounder of Daptone Records, caught one of Bradley's shows and quickly signed him to the label. Now, at age 65, Bradley has found his way in the world. Earlier this year, he released his second album, Victim of Love, which he'll perform at the High Noon Saloon on Dec. 4.

Though Bradley is pleased about his success, his biggest concern is living with "honesty and decency." He's a man who bleeds and sweats the truth.

"If you're not giving it from your heart, you ain't nothing but a robot. I don't want to be a robot on the stage," he says. "I want to open up my spirit to the world. I want them to see I'm a person, [that] I have feelings, too."

Bradley spoke with Isthmus from Istanbul during the European leg of his tour. It's clear that no matter how much he travels, or how far, he tries to put on his very best show every night.

"People are just looking for love, understanding and respect," Bradley says. "I'm focused to give them the deepest of my soul. If people are listening to my lyrics, I have to be very wise."

Bradley says the attention he's received has helped him better understand his life and stop bottling up the things that bother him. Letting go of the past helps him push forward with vigor. So even though he's getting older, he's not about to retire.

"Sometimes I'll be on stage, and a pain will hit me so hard that I put it in my music. I'll bounce over it and keep going," he says. "People love me and want to see me perform, so I want to find the strength to give them what they've come to see."

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