Back in June, I had a very spiritual response to Charles Bradley‘s heart-breaking song, Why Is It So Hard? and was moved to tears. I watched this video half a dozen times in a row. When I learned he was playing at the Belly Up (San Diego) in August I was astounded that tickets hadn’t yet sold out! I bought two tickets based on listening to this one song:
A couple of months later, the Mister and I were at the Belly Up and making our way towards the stage. By the time Charles Bradley came on, we were perhaps three ‘rows’ (it was standing room only) back. I’ve never been so excited about seeing a musician I admire perform. He didn’t disappoint — even though he didn’t sing Why Is It So Hard?
I watched this man — who I’ve dubbed the contemporary king of soul — scream and holler his pain through his music; and I listened as he patted his heart and told us all to love one another. To my delight, as he sang Lovin’ You Baby, he looked straight at Mister and me, holding each other as we swayed to the music, and blew us a kiss.
At the end of his encore, he made his way to the edge of the stage. Dozens of hands reached for him. I stuck mine out too, What the hell, he might shake it and that would be cool! I watched as he took others’ hands, but not mine, and made his way off the stage and into the crowd. And then he was coming towards me with a smile on his face. And then he was in front of me, holding out his arms. And suddenly I found myself hugging him back and saying Thank you, thank you, thank you in his ear. I released my embrace and watched him disappear into the crowd of adoring fans, far more fervent than I was. When I turned to Mister, he was visibly moved. He said, That was amazing. That wasn’t an accident. He wanted to hug you, he literally made a beeline for you.
I know, I responded. I know. I was surprised by how calm I felt. Around us the excited screams continued and I could imagine what it must have been like to be at a Beatles concert. He hugged me, not the couple with their framed wedding photo. He hugged me. Isn’t that weird?
Why do I ♥ Charles Bradley? Not just because he loves his audience in the most compassionate (not narcissistic) sense. Not just because takes his suffering and turns it into something beautiful. His voice screams with the pain you can only know from having loved and lost. Not just because something drew him to me. Not just because at some level he knew I needed a hug. But because, after finding musical success in his sixties, he is a powerful reminder to us all to not give up on our dreams. Because they sometimes do come true.