On Thankfulness, and the Indefatigable Charles Bradley

Hopefully like us, you’re all taking a pause this week to marvel at the many things we have to be grateful for.

We’re grateful for the artists who have already added so much joy and inspiration to our lives this season and are looking forward to even more on the horizon. (And, were sharing the love with you, via a one-day-only, buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer on upcoming performances good from 8am-midnight on for Cyber Monday Nov. 26. Check our website on Monday!)

One of the emotional highlights of our season comes on the heels of Thanksgiving this year, with the November 29 performance from Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band.

Charles Bradley, now in his 60s and having spent decades as a struggling James Brown impersonator dubbed Black Velvet, just released his first major album in 2011 with “No Time for Dreaming.” Four years in the making, it is full of hope and heartache. This amazing performer is no stranger to suffering, his biography spans stories of drug abuse, homelessness, poverty and a great deal of loss.

And yet, somehow, by all accounts, he is an incredibly grateful, gracious and hopeful individual.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with Poull Brien, the director of Soul of America, a biography on Charles Bradley that is currently touring the festival circuit and will hopefully hit theaters next year.

Poull was deeply moved by his experience getting to know Bradley, with whom he formed a close bond during filming. He began to feel like a brother to the singer.

But that’s not a rare thing, he says.

“Charles is the most unguarded person you will ever meet,” Brien says. “He doesn’t have secrets, he is 100 percent about understanding you and opening up communication with people, and love and finding new friends and it is that open attitude is what I think separates Charles from other artists.”

Brien said one of the many things he took away from his experience with Charles Bradley is a profound sense of the importance of gratitude in this life.

“If it did nothing else for me it taught me that no matter how bleak things seem you just keep going and that the level of thankfulness that you carry with you, that alone can change your life. For Charles, it was that little hope that he had that kept him going for all these years. The guy really embodies that attitude of thankfulness and gratitude and never taking anything for granted.”

“If there’s a lesson to be taken from Charles, it’s that it’s not just about perseverance, and he has had incredible perseverance over the years, but that alone is not enough. It’s the gratitude and love that you have to have in your heart that makes all the difference.”

That’s what Charles Bradley taught Poull Brien, and that’s undoubtedly what he’ll bring to the Royce Hall stage Nov. 29 in a way only he can.

Have a safe, happy and reflective Thanksgiving and please join us next week to revel in the presence of the one and only Charles Bradley.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Poull’s film Soul of America.