Bradley James Nowell was a musician who served as lead singer and guitarist of the reggae/punk band Sublime. He died at the age of 28 from a heroin overdose. Raised in Long Beach, California, Nowell developed an interest in music at a young age. His father took him on a trip to the Virgin Islands during his childhood, which exposed him to reggae and dancehall music. Nowell played in various bands until forming the group Sublime with bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh.
Bradley Nowell was born and raised in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach, California to Jim and Nancy Nowell, with his sister, Kellie. As a child, he enjoyed surfing and sailing and often participated in boat races. As Nowell grew, he became a difficult child and was often hyperactive and disruptive with his buddy Clayton Arbuckle. His mother recalled that he was "very emotional, very sensitive, very artistic, but he was needy...He was always testing just to see what he could get away with". Nowell's rebellious behavior increased when he was ten years old caused by his parents’ divorce. His mother was awarded custody of Nowell, but found him too difficult to control on her own and he subsequently moved in with his father full-time at age twelve.
At the age of thirteen, he began playing guitar and started his first band Hogan's Heroes with Eric Wilson, who would later become the bassist of Sublime. Nowell and Wilson met in sixth grade and lived across the street from each other; during this time, Nowell was described as a "gifted kid with many friends". At first, Wilson did not share Nowell's interest in reggae music. Nowell attended the University of California, Santa Cruz before transferring to Cal State Long Beach to study finance. However, he dropped out one semester shy of earning a degree, stating in 1995 "I have all the hard classes left...I doubt I'll ever go back".
According to "Westwood One Interview" on disc three of the Sublime box...