If you don’t know who Charlie Wilson is, go ahead and climb out from under that rock you’ve been living under or, greetings, 90s babies and Millennials, meet Uncle Charlie. The eleven time Grammy nominated crooner, is longevity, faith and favor personified.
A hybrid of velvety smooth vocals, tender loving and timelessness, Mr. Wilson is living up to his latest album title, In It To Win It. You can keep that towel others would’ve thrown in. At 64 years young, the Tulsa, Oklahoma native is a well-respected veteran and trailblazer; fresher than ever and divinely refreshed like an east wind. The former front man of 70s trio The Gap Band, the R&B and funk band that pumped out hits “Early in the Morning,” “Yearning for Your Love,” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” isn’t holding anything back.
A massively successfully career, spanning over four decades, is a musicians dream, but to Charlie, is a daily reality. His eighth solo album, featuring Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Lalah Hathaway, Snoop Dogg, Robin Thicke and Pitbull, solidifies Wilson’s reverenced position in music. Never one to shy away from revealing a sketchy past, peppered with stints of drugs, alcohol abuse and homelessness, Wilson unapologetically gives all glory to God, showing fans his piece of heaven. A product of salvation, mercy and grace, Charlie is not only a talented performer, who could give those half his age a run for their money, he’s extremely inspirational.
The Source caught up with Charlie as he prepares for his Chicago tour stop on Saturday, February 25 as he talked about his new album, and his incredibly inspiring words of wisdom.- Angela Wilson
The Source: Congratulations on your new album, In It To Win It! What separates this album from your other solo projects?
Charlie Wilson: On this one I talk a lot about having faith and lots of love. And I have a lot of features- I’ve never had features before and I’ve never gotten this close to talk about faith- this is my first time. And I’ve been wanting to have this discussion on record with my fans. I’m so happy I get a chance to have a lot more features- I love Snoop Dogg, he’s always there for me. I have T.I., Wiz Khalifa, Robin Thicke and Lalah Hathaway- I needed to have a different person for each song from another genre to help me tell a story. And it turned out really well for me. This is my best work that I’ve ever did.
Every time I do another album each year, two years, I set the bar higher for myself. I just believe in cutting great music and staying fresh as I can.
I first saw you in concert last year at the Essence Festival and you took us to church Charlie! Why is it so important for you to share your testimony?
I already promised God that every time I get on the stage I would shout Him out and have a little church. Every time I step to the stage I’m going to do that. God has been faithful to me all of these years so it’s my turn to be faithful back and stay true to my word. I know a lot of people look at me like, ‘Why is he doing that?’ When they come to these shows they don’t know what to expect; they may be a little tipsy or drunk or whatever, and for me to start going to church and shouting it might make them feel a little funny.
But I must, I must, I must continue to honor my word to my Heavenly Father. And then it helps other people because at that moment you think about how blessed you are and you just might as well get your shout on for 15 seconds.
Charlie, you’re a veteran in the music industry, but music has changed so much- in particularly R&B, since the 80s and 90s. What happened?
At that time I think hip hop just took over. Then MTV just took over back in the day and took the shine from radio stars. Thank God for Michael Jackson because he stood the test of time and just blew everybody out. As far as R&B, hip hop just took over. Then everybody started trying to change their music style and I just knew it was a bad idea to try that. When the 90s came in, it was the male singers who had been listening to Charlie Wilson and The Gap Band and they took that sound, that vocal sound and ran off with it.
The 90s was OK, but since I wasn’t around at that time, the 90s fizzled out. So I had to come on back! I had to come on back! And I think I got a hold of the R&B world and have so for the last 17 years. I’m a leader- I’m the leader out here, so when I come I noticed they don’t either put their record out or they scoot over because I’m coming for you if you’re at the top! I noticed a lot of pop superstars are using the R&B sound to get to where they want to go. You can listen to some of the biggest names in the world and you’re going to hear some “shabadaba dwee dwee dwee” or some Charlie Wilson runs- I won’t say names but you’ll hear some Charlie Wilson runs in there!
We just got to continue to stay fresh with it. But I’m happy with where we are with it.
Looking back, what would you tell 18-year-old Charlie?
I would tell myself not to get caught up in the party scene. I would tell myself that everything will be fine with you; you’re going to go through something but everything is going to be OK. But I would’ve told myself not to go around the corner and stay at that party for as long as I did, because I was at the party until I was the only one there for many, many years, and never came out, which led to my demise. But I would’ve told myself that you’re going to be fine.
I know as teenagers, we start out having fun, but it just stuck with me and one thing led to another. As I got older it became a pattern for me and I thought I needed to have a drink to go play and I started dibbling and dabbling with cocaine and after awhile I thought I needed that, but I didn’t need any of it. I just wasted a lot of my time from aspiring others. But I’m good though- God is good, He took care of me!
When was the last time you cried?
Oh, just the other day! I was just overwhelmed with joy. And I get hard on myself and sometimes I talk to God at night and just the other night I cried about how blessed I am. I told Him how I’m trying my best to hold on to this force that I have and I asked Him to help me with that because I’m just getting started but I want to do a lot more to aspire other people.
But I cry about how blessed I am- I remember thinking back when it was just clubs, to just theaters- and instead of thinking about how blessed I was at the time I thought how I should’ve been in stadiums by then, I was thinking way too far pass the blessing. I asked Him for forgiveness on how I used to think. [I learned] how God is going to come when He wants to come and when He does it’s always right on time- it always won’t be when we want Him. I was just crying about how sorry I am if I did anything to offend you the Lord, and when I got up off my knees I felt so good and went straight to sleep.
But I’m always crying about something, but it’s always been about good. I’ve had some cries not so good, but God always take cares of those for me. He gives us things to go through, that’s what the journey is all about. I’m on a journey, not a race and on a journey you have to go through things- it’s apart of it, and once you realize that, every moment is special, good or bad because you know this is apart of it. Until you figure that out, you’re going to be a sad solider. It took me a minute to figure it out but I got it now though. – CW
Click here to find out when the In It To Win It tour, featuring Fantasia and Johnny Gill, hits a city near you. Every ticket purchased online for the tour comes with one physical copy of In It to Win It!
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