Charles Bradley: Born 05.11.1948 in Gainesville, Florida; † 23.09.2017 in New York
Late soul great Charles Bradley can be heard performing Black Sabbath’s “Changes” in the most unlikely of places – – an animated adult cartoon. The new series, “Big Mouth,” uses Bradley’s version of “Changes.” The significance is found in the song’s transition from one genre to another.
“Big Mouth” and its theme song
At the end of Sept. 2017, Netflix began airing an adult-oriented cartoon about adolescents navigating the choppy waters of puberty. At the beginning of each show, there is a close-up, animated view of various reproductive organs. As the parts undergo their various processes, a horn blast of soul music begins to play, and a male vocalist sings the words, “I’m going through changes.” The voice is an emotive baritone reminiscent of the likes of Otis Redding and Percy Sledge.
So for fans of certain kinds of humor, what is funny on the surface is that the show is about kids in a New York City suburb–the changes they are experiencing are not the same as the ones being sung about. Also, the play on the word “changes” and essentially hearing it in two contexts at once, can strike some viewers as humorous.
But for viewers familiar with the catalog of Black Sabbath, “Changes” sounds like something they have heard before.
Life cycle of “Changes”
The version of “Changes” that Bradley sings was originally written by Black Sabbath and recorded for the band’s 1972 album, “Vol. 4.” The song is categorized as “soft rock,” but Black Sabbath typically isn’t. The original is a piano-based tune– that allows Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals to sear through it. So even if “Changes” as sung by Bradley isn’t metal, it does still move from one genre to another.
If Bradley’s sound has all the makings of a classic Motown-era hit, there is a reason for that. His career began in the mid-1960s, but was put on hold for a number of reasons. He resumed his career in 2011. His debut album, “No Time for Dreaming,” was released that year. That was followed by “Victim of Love” in 2013.
In the interim, Bradley was the subject of a 2012 documentary, “Soul of America” that premiered at SXSW. By 2016, he had released what would be his last album, “Changes.” Unfortunately, Bradley died of stomach cancer six days before “Big Mouth” was set to air. In at least one online obituary, he is referred to as “the screaming eagle of soul,” and the way Bradley delivers a song shows the name to be accurate.
Charles Bradley and Black Sabbath
What is intriguing about connections like this is that they prove that the cultural and racial divisions that the listening public, radio stations and maybe even the music industry, has attributed to music itself, don’t exist. The heartache depicted in “Changes” is just as obvious in Black Sabbath’s version as it is in Bradley’s. That the song has found new life in a racy cartoon makes a statement about the flexibility of music as a language.
“Changes” proves how much people have in common, and how music can bring people together, no matter how disparate their demographics.