A conversation with Uncle Charlie Wilson by
Eleven-time Grammy nominee, author, chart topping singer/songwriter, legendary lead vocalist in a group and as a soloist. I’ve been a fan of this gentlemen for as long as I can remember, it was an honor to have a conversation with… Charlie Wilson who on February 11, 2016, will bring his soulful styling’s to the San Manuel Indian Casino.
Charlie’s love of music began at a very young age. He remembers singing in the church choir and loving the sound of instruments playing and vocals harmonizing. His rise to fame began when he and his brothers were discovered while performing in a local club. Charlie loved music and entertaining but he was quick to point out that he was equally as passionate and talented in sports, particularly basketball. Charlie stated that he could’ve been a successful basketball or football player had he pursued that instead of music. Luckily, for us he chose music.
Coming off the high of his latest Grammy nominated CD “Forever Charlie”, I asked what could we look forward to with his next CD? His response”, I am my biggest competition and my goal is to beat what I’ve done with my last CD”. He shared with me that several of his “nephews” would be a part of the project however, he elected to keep quiet about which ones, and how they would participate.
Charlie also went on to say that, he planned to listen attentively to his” nephews” on this project, as they are all well-known hit-makers whose talents he strongly appreciates. Snoop Dog is actually the “nephew” who deemed him “uncle” Charlie and assisted him with resurrecting his career by bringing his talent to the forefront of an audience who may not have known him otherwise. The one aspect of the upcoming CD that Charlie chose to share is that the finished product will be funky!
After the fame of his former group with his brother’s, The Gap Band, Charlie was missing from the music scene for several years. My grandmother often said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. During his time of addiction and then recovery, I asked him how this prepared him for today’s successes. “Sometimes you have to go through some things, you can’t go from step 1 to 100, one-step at a time”. “Some give up during the process, but I have a lot of faith”. “Faith without works is dead; God can do anything you need”. “I thank God and depend on him”. “It’s a been a journey, but I won’t stop. If my back hurts, I will work it out, I won’t stop”.
Spirituality is a vital part of Charlie’s life. I asked him what was his defining moment that instance when he knew that he was living his purpose? He paused to reflect for a moment, and then said “wow, everything has been a blessing”. That moment for him came when he won the BET lifetime achievement award. He said “the people who came to pay tribute to him both artists and fans were awesome, both amazing and a blessing, it was the best feeling that I have ever felt.” “I hold the crown for the highest ratings for BET”. “It used to be James Brown then Michael Jackson, now it’s me”.
Charlie loves to entertain and typically performs 40-50 times per year. I asked when relaxing, who do you listen to? “I listen to what I’ve done in the past because if you don’t know where you’ve been, how can you know where you’re going”? Charlie says that he listens to other artists but not religiously because he fears that he will “steal” their styles. When listening to a song so much that it becomes ingrained in you, you begin to believe it’s your own creation because it has become so familiar. Because he doesn’t want to “borrow” from other artists, he keeps listening to their music at a minimum.
Since we were discussing his music, I asked what was his favorite Charlie Wilson song to sing? He chuckled loudly and said, “wow, do you have children”? Yes, I have 4 daughters. “Which one is your favorite”? I laughed because I knew which direction he was headed and I responded, I tell my oldest that she is my favorite first born, my second that she is my favorite second born etc. He laughed and said “exactly, all my songs are my favorite”.
All of his songs are my favorites too. To date as a soloist Charlie has had a total of 18 hits of which 8 reached number one on Billboard. Songs such as “Goodnight Kisses”, My Love Is All I Have,” “You Are,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Charlie Last Name Wilson,” and “Without You.”
Charlie has been influenced by many of the greats however when asked if given the opportunity to perform a duet with an artist living or deceased without hesitation he said “Marvin Gaye”. Charlie has a lot of admiration for Stevie Wonder who he has performed with and Donny Hathaway whom he sat at a piano and sang with while on a visit to Chi town, but Marvin Gaye would be his choice. Charlie shared the experience of watching Marvin Gaye in a recording session. He had the bodyguard help him gain entrance unknowingly to the recording Marvin Gaye. Charlie talked about how amazing it was to listen and watch this person that he had such an admiration for, he likened it to feeling like a groupie. When he and Marvin met, he said that there was a mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s work. He feels incredibly blessed to have met him.
What can you expect from his performance? According to Charlie, be prepared to witness a power packed show that if it wasn’t then it should’ve been on your bucket list. He plans to entice you with some of his hits as lead singer of the Gap Band as well as his current hits as a soloist. Uncle Charlie claims that you have never seen anything like the performance that he is about to bring to the Inland to see what he Empire. I can’t wait has in store for us.