Sometimes a song is covered so eloquently and powerfully that you forget it was written by somebody else. Much in the way that it feels like Hurt was originally a Johnny Cash song, and Nine Inch Nails covered it, this Black Sabbath original sometimes truly seems to belong to Charles Bradley.
The melody of “Changes” was originally composed by guitarist Tony Iommi, with lyrics from bassist Geezer Butler and vocalist Ozzie Osbourne, and was inspired by drummer Bill Ward’s breakup with his first wife. Bradley, however, took the anguish of his mother’s recent death, with whom his relationship had always been complicated, as the driving force of his impassioned delivery.
Black Sabbath rarely performed this song live after 1973, but in every single one of Bradley’s live renditions of the ballad, his every emotion could be felt, and his whole body seemed to tremble. He’d often be covered in sweat from his lively performances, and would leave the audiences hanging on his every word of longing and every painful cry.
In many ways Charles Bradley was an echo of a generation of soul singers that sang not with their voice, but truly emoted from the very depths of their soul, and brought about such fervent and rousing deliveries from the heart. He was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer around the time of this performance for the Toronto Star Newsroom Concert Series in the fall of 2016, and died a year later of further complications at 68.
About a week after his passing, Big Mouth, Netflix’s raunchy animated comedy about pubescent teenagers premiered with Bradley’s version of the tune as its theme song, introducing a new generation to the music of Black Sabbath and the magic of Charles Bradley’s voice.
Sol Canal for Keeping the Blues Alive
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