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In 1962, Bradley's sister took him to James Brown's landmark performance at the Apollo Theater – the show transformed Bradley, who would later find regional success in New York as a James Brown impersonator named Black Velvet.

In 2011, Bradley released his debut album No Time for Dreaming with the Menahan Street Band after a string of singles – the album, which included the galvanizing "The World (Is Going Up in Flames)," was named by Rolling Stone as one of the 50 Best Albums of the Year.

Victim of Love, with its unlikely hit "Strictly Reserved for You," would follow in 2013, earning near-universal critical acclaim and bolstering Bradley's status as a soul star with unmatched authenticity. 

Bradley's final album, Changes, arrived in 2016, taking its title from a cover on the album of Black Sabbath's 1972 ballad.

Bradley hadn't heard of the heavy metal pioneers, but connected with Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler's personal lyrics about transformation as Bradley watched his mom's health deteriorate.

Over the course of three albums, Bradley, known as the "Screaming Eagle of Soul," blended heartfelt ballads of love, longing and remorse with raucous tracks celebrating joy and the survival of a hardscrabble life.