Charlie Wilson is Already Looking Forward to 2018!
Charlie Wilson is Already Looking Forward to 2018!
The 2018 Soul Train Cruise is a whole year away, but lots of folks are so excited that they’re already planning out what they’ll be doing while they’re on the “Hippest Trip at Sea,” including the legendary Charlie Wilson. We spoke with “Uncle Charlie” recently about what he’s got in store for the Soul Train Cruise (we’ll give you a hint: it has a lot to do with the fans) right before he headed out to promote his new album “In It To Win It” (due February 17th) and his new single, “I’m Blessed”, featuring T.I.
“I’m Blessed” could not be a more perfect song title for Charlie Wilson, who has indeed been gifted with one of the most distinctive, sweet and soulful voices in music. It was that voice that led the Gap Band with a sound like no other; it was sexy, it was fun, and it got a dance floor grooving. Everyone got down to Gap Band songs in the’70s and ‘80s. At the height of the band’s career, Charlie and his close friend Roger (Troutman) were on tour together - Charlie with the Gap Band and Roger with Zapp -when the two stepped into a studio and gave fans a sneak peek into the future. Little did either superstar know that Wilson’s backing vocals on Zapp’s smash hit “Computer Love” would foreshadow the kind of runaway success his solo career would have.
“Zapp, Roger, myself and Gap were on the road a lot together,” Charlie reminisces. “We were rivals on the stage but Roger and I were really best friends. But you couldn’t tell when it was showtime,” he laughs, “because we would go after each other’s heads by way of stage and performance.” “One day at soundcheck he walks up to me and asks, ‘what should I do next,’ so I said ‘you should do ballads,’ because he was always doing funk. We were laughing at each other and he said ‘okay, if I do a ballad you gotta help me.’” “I joked, ‘no, man, I’m not gonna help you do nothing, man.’ Then finally I said, ‘okay, if you come up with the right one I’ll help you.’”
All joking aside, Roger took his friend’s offer seriously and within a couple of days he came calling. “He calls me after a show, it was three o’clock in the morning, and he says ‘I got this idea.’ Long story short, I end up getting out of bed, going to the studio and recording these vocals. And all he had was ‘shooby doo bop, shoo-doo-bop’ - that’s all he had and we both together just molded it.” That night, the two friends transformed those insanely catchy lyrics right into a Top 10 hit – a first for Charlie without the Gap Band. “I was not thinking about any solo career at all,” Charlie explains. “My heart and soul was the Gap Band. I had been approached so many, many times when I was younger. Everybody tried to get me to leave the Gap Band and I turned them down every time. But we put that record together and it ended up being a really, really big hit.” As Charlie retells the story, it become clear what was most important about “Computer Love.” Neither the success nor the excitement over his first work as a solo artist. It was the friendship. “Me and Roger remained just the best of friends,” he says happily.
By 1992, Charlie officially became a solo artist and along the way helped usher in a new kind of sound – New Jack Swing. Like the music of the Gap Band, it was sexy, fun and made you dance. There was no way someone listening to those songs couldn’t get moving.
“I was thinking about reshaping things and inspiring others, maybe doing something that people could take and run and do what they could do with that sound. The vibe just came and everybody started doing their thing to enhance those vibes,” he says.
For a man who has inspired so many, Uncle Charlie is reluctant to take any credit. “I don’t ever stop and say that I helped shape black music in America,” he explains. “I always say that I asked God to help me inspire people and he has given me that and so I just run with that.” And he is grateful, ever so grateful, for the life and career he has been blessed with. “I’m still making music, still having number one records, still being nominated for GRAMMYS and still have sold out tours and shows,” Charlie says, amazed at how his career continues to grow. “When you can get all of those things that you live and dream for and it’s just coming your way, it’s an awesome, awesome feeling and I sit back at the end of the day and tear up a bit thinking, wow this is really happening.”
“Like last year. I was sitting on the steps of the United Center in Chicago and I was so emotionally happy that I’m looking at this building and every seat was sold from the top to the bottom. And I was sitting there and tears of joy were just rolling. ‘Cause when I rolled up and I saw the sign that said ‘Charlie Wilson: Sold Out’ I just lost it. 98% of the venues I played at on that tour were sold out like that.”
When asked what his journey to that sold out night at the United Center was like, he reveals an intense commitment to music and his tireless work ethic. “In the beginning, I knew that I loved music and that I could play it well and sing it well and I knew that if I rubbed elbows with some big name people then I knew I could get where I was trying to go. I ended up meeting some very influential people and in my heart I just knew it, that I was I was going places. I always had the drive and the appreciation and love and passion for music. And here I am. I had nobody telling me to keep going, it was just my friends and I we just wanted to play music and learn everything that we could.”
“This is not a race,” he shares, “this is a journey and if you stop that’s when you get off. But I just never did stop and I don’t plan on ever stopping until I’m just way too old to do it. I’m having the best time of my life right now.” And that includes his appearance on the 2018 Soul Train Cruise, where he’s already looking forward to talking to fans every day on the ship. “They get a chance to be up close and personal with me on the cruise,” he explains. Luckily for those fans aboard the ship, Charlie is not one to hang out quietly in his cabin. “We’re up on the deck, were up on the floors, we’re going to lunch and dinner. And people are always asking ‘Uncle Charlie, can we take a picture?’ I can barely get from the cabin to the dining room,” he laughs. “It takes me two hours to get to the dining room. A regular person takes six or seven minutes to walk to dinner on the cruise ship, but it takes me two hours because I’m obliging everyone for a photo or a hug or a little bit of a conversation, cause I don’t like to tell fans no.” In fact, Charlie Wilson will happily set out for dinner two hours early just to be sure he spends time with every fan who stops him along the way.
“I am so grateful for my fans, who are growing more and more every year. When I perform my songs in concert and hear everybody sing the songs with me and watch them on their feet, and when I ask them to sing something with me and they’re singing it back … that’s when my emotions run high again. It’s crazy. I’m having such a wonderful time in my life right now. I get a chance to play all the old Gap Band hits and the Charlie Wilson hits from 16 years ago all the way up until today. I’m so happy that I can do that, it’s like who gets that chance? It’s so incredible. “
You can be sure Charlie will perform his newest hit, “I’m Blessed” featuring TI, on the Soul Train Cruise. To find out more about the song and how to order a copy of his new album, “In It To Win It,” here: www.charliewilson.com.