It makes Charlie Wilson happy to see his fans smile and have a good time to his music. The crowd-pleasing elder statesman of R&B and soul music knows he’s put on a good show whenever he can ring his sweaty clothes out or see his adoring concertgoers sing along to his extensive catalog of pulsating funk classics as a member of the Gap Band and current chart topping romantic ballads as a beloved solo artist.
A nine-time Grammy nominee, Wilson, affectionately known throughout the music industry as “Uncle Charlie,” put himself in the position of anyone from his loyal fan base. It’s extremely important to the 62-year-old wailing vocalist with the convincing grunt and infectious smile to always give his ticket buyers a highly energetic live experience. “You ain’t gonna see nobody else like me after I leave the stage,” says a confident Uncle Charlie via phone. “That’s the only way I know how to perform.”
“If you spend money to go see a show, you should see one. Anybody that comes on behind me, they gonna wish they had come on before me.” Beginning in the 1970s and throughout the 80s, The Gap Band churned out timeless groove-laden staples like “Outstanding,” “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” “Party Train,” “Early in the Morning,” “Yearning for Your Love” and “Burn Rubber.”
Uncle Charlie came back onto the scene as a leader in digital era R&B, consistently dropping an unparalleled canon of heartfelt songs including “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” “You Are,” “Without You,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Magic,” “Goodnight Kisses” and “My Love Is All I Have.” His second wave of success was initially met with some resistance from record executives and other entertainers who thought Uncle Charlie’s time in the spotlight had expired.
Uncle Charlie ignored his naysayers, knowing there was still place for him in contemporary music. “People can say things to make you change your mind to make you think it will never happen for you,” he says. “I’ve changed the face of adult R&B. People come out in droves to see [Uncle Charlie], and that’s just a blessing.”
Growing up in Tulsa, OK, the entertainer and songwriter synonymous with crooning “shabba-dabba-dwee-dwee-dwee” was inspired to perform by watching his minister father deliver sermons. A pioneer for black music out of the Midwest, The Gap Band was the first band of color to come out of Oklahoma. The musicians rubbed shoulders with rock acts like Leon Russell, The Rolling Stones, KISS and Kansas. To this day when Uncle Charlie is in the studio, he comes up with numerous ideas and records his vocals in one take.
Uncle Charlie’s contributions to music inspire generations of hip-hop, R&B and pop artists. Anytime the recipient of BET’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award collaborates with talent, he observes their recording techniques and absorbs their creative flow. He calls Snoop Dogg his “nephew,” saying he admires the West Coast rap legend’s easygoing demeanor. “[Snoop] flows with anything,” says Uncle Charlie. “He comes up with his own parts and other parts to add to your flavor.”
Singer/songwriter R. Kelly’s prolific nature is something else that impresses Uncle Charlie. “He’s pregnant with music,” he adds. “He writes five or six songs a day. We were writing four or five ideas and got one song out. He writes whole songs.” Priding himself on hanging with artists who brag on themselves, Kanye West’s professionalism and attention to detail also resonates with Uncle Charlie.
“[Kanye] is a no-nonsense kind of guy in the studio,” continues Uncle Charlie. “When he’s about music, he’s about music. He’s flawless. I like his punctuality. When you get to the spot, he’s already at the spot.”
Uncle Charlie released his seventh solo LP, Forever Charlie, earlier this year. This past summer, the soul survivor dropped his 256-page memoir, I Am Charlie Wilson. The biography made the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, chronicling the transparent entertainer’s brushes with fame, success, shady business deals, prostate cancer, sibling rivalry, overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and revitalizing his musical career.
Going through something like having prostate cancer did not stop Uncle Charlie and it doesn’t have to stop you. If you are experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer such as needing to go to the toilet regularly, straining while you pee or feeling like your bladder is not completely empty, you should get this checked out. It will be easier for doctors to find out what the underlying cause it if you are seen to early enough. By looking into a company like Advanced Urology you will be able to find specialists who will make your concerns their main priority. With their help, you can put your mind at ease and help make life a little bit easier. Your health is very important, so putting yourself first in situations like these should be made a priority.
Always quick to share stories about his past, writing a book is something Uncle Charlie, a NAACP Image award winner, has wanted to pursue for the past 15 to 20 years. “God has a plan for me,” he says, “always have. My story will be told like it’s being told now. It’s time for people to know who the real [Charlie Wilson] really is. Everything I’ve asked God for, he’s given it to me.”
A prostate cancer survivor, Uncle Charlie is now a spokesperson for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He normally speaks before black men and their families about getting tested and treatment options. The performer has also been clean and sober for two decades. Uncle Charlie says maintaining a strong faith involves him relying on constantly praying and believing in his himself. “I have a happy home and everything else is God,” says Wilson.
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for the Burton Wire. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.