"I'm going through changes," Charles Bradley wails at the top of Big Mouth's title sequence. That lyric from "Changes" could be about puberty, mourning a death, the end of a relationship — or the song itself.
Starting as a 1972 Black Sabbath song inspired by drummer Bill Ward's divorce, the song got a second life when producer Tom Brenneck came across the song. "I thought, 'Holy s--- man, this is like a soul song!" says the guitarist, who recommended Bradley (his fellow Budos Band member) record it as a one-off single for Record Store Day in 2013.
Though that took some convincing: "He'd never heard of Ozzy Osbourne in his life," says Brenneck. "He couldn't relate to because he had no love life at that time in his life," he adds of his friend, who was a homeless drifter as a teen who didn't come to prominence until his early 50s.
But in 2014, Bradley lost his mother — whom he'd been estranged from for much of his life but had cared for in her final years — and he channeled that grief into "Changes." "Now when he sang 'She was my woman/I loved her so' … I get chills."
And he wasn't the only one feeling it: "A friend invited me to a Charles Bradley concert and I was listening to [Bradley's 2016 album Changes, which features a re-record of the title track] on the way to work, and just immediately was like, "Oh, this is the song,'" says Nick Kroll, who co-creator Big Mouth with Jen Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, and Mark Levin. (They first wanted Queen's "You're My Best Friend," but it was too expensive.)
Pete Still/Redferns; NETFLIX; Noam Galai/WireImage
"There's that rightness when we heard it," Flackett recalls of Kroll playing the song for the team. "We were right in the middle of discovering what the show was, and we were sort of surprised that the show was as emotional as it is. And the song was surprisingly emotional. So, in a way, they went hand in hand with each other."
The show used the original Black Sabbath version in the fourth season during an episode set in the distant future, while other covers have been used during the Valentine's Day episodes. "And in our next season, we have an operatic version of it that we're creating now," says Levin. "It's such a beautiful and simple lyric that allows for it to be retold and reinterpreted by all these different artists and still really speaks to the largest theme of the show." But, he says, Bradley's version remains the standard: "He just brought so much soul and emotion to his rendition."
Tragically, Bradley died at 68 — just six days before Big Mouth launched in 2017. "It's a blessing," Brenneck says the song living on through the Netflix comedy. "Anything that helps to keep his music alive is incredible."
A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.