Soul Searching

Charles Bradley

shutterstock | Rene Oonk

The improbable Maine origins of the theme song to the HBO hit Barry.

Ahead of this month’s Emmy Awards, Barry, a dark comedy about an assassin turned actor, scored 13 nominations. Incidentally, the opening theme, soul singer Charles Bradley’s “Change for the World,” owns an unlikely place in Maine music lore. In the 1960s, living homeless in New York City, teenaged Bradley joined the Job Corps, part of the War on Poverty, and got sent to train as a cook in Bar Harbor. There, someone told him he looked an awful lot like James Brown, and soon he had his first gig, performing as a Brown impersonator to a crowd of 500 at a women’s Job Corps center in Poland Spring. After that, he’d often sit and stare at Cadillac Mountain while imagining a future in music. But Bradley, who died a year ago this month, only cut his first album in 2011, at age 62 (Rolling Stone named it one of that year’s 50 best). Until then, Bradley had bounced around the country working odd jobs, only dabbling in music with his James Brown act, thanks to some Mainer who saw a resemblance.


Jaed Coffin

Jaed Coffin is the author of the memoir A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants and teaches in the University of New Hampshire's MFA creative writing program. He lives in Brunswick.