In over 30 years, Charlie Wilson, the former lead singer of the Gap Band (remember, “Yearning For Your Love”?), has worked with everybody from Zapp & Roger to Justin Timberlake and Pharrell. These days, he’s still making hit records and dropping solo albums. In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness month, Wilson talks to HelloBeautiful exclusively about his personal diagnosis with the disease, maintaining his marriage, and the music industry today.
HelloBeautiful: Congratulations on the Uncle Charlie album going to #1. “There Goes My Baby” has been really well-received, what inspired that as first single?
Charlie Wilson: I think that R&B is missing great songs. There’s a throwback sound that it has, an old feel to it, but the lyrics are quite young, young enough to tell a story that everybody can relate to. I just thought that everybody would latch on to and it worked. It stayed at #1 for ten weeks and it grabbed on to all demographics and that’s what I was looking for, for everybody to love that record.
HB: Whose idea was it to use the high-profile couple of Snoop Dogg and his wife Shante in the music video, instead of characters?
Actually, it was my managers idea. I performed that record at their wedding – well, actually after they renewed their vows, because they renewed their vows on my ranch. After we finished, I debuted the song. All that footage was still there and when it got time to do the video, my manager thought it’d be great if we took some excerpts from it and ran some of the footage.
Watch the video here:
Lil’ Kim called me on the phone one night and she said, “Uncle Charlie, I got this idea. I wanna do this song; it’s a remake.” And I was like, “Okay?” She says, “It’s ‘Computer Love.” And I just thought, “Here we go.” It’s probably the 50th time somebody’s asked me to redo that song. She said if I didn’t like it, she’d respect my wishes, but I asked her to send me a copy. She e-mailed it to me, and by the I got to the second verse, I called her back. She just screamed and said, “Well, can you do some of your signature licks?” So, I touched it up a little bit more. It’s great.
Lil’ Kim heavily sampled Zapp & Roger’s 1985 hit “Computer Love,” which your vocals were featured on. What do you think of sampling in the music industry today?
A lot of people sample because they like or love the groove and they don’t know how to recapture it. In our case, if we like something, we just replay it. A lot of artists and producers really don’t know how to play, but they’re great at what they do as far as taking bits of pieces of work that they grew up listening to. However, if we wanna use a bit, we just listen to the record and re-cut it, that’s the only way to do it. But, it’s okay with me. Just make sure you pay me when you get through sampling me.
What did you think of Auto-Tune before working with T-Pain?
Auto-Tune has been around a long time. They used to doctor up vocals for people who were singing out of tune or if you we’re having a bad night. If you did a recording and were just a bit under, they’d tune it. But, Cher, I think, was one of the first ones that came and took it all the way to a robotic sound. T-Pain, of course, took off with that. I’m happy for him. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. It’s working for everybody that’s using it – well, mostly everybody. I think it’s quite cool myself, wonder what it would sound like on my voice. I’m going to try that.
Watch the video below:
In a day and age where break-ups and make-ups seem to be the rule, and longevity is the exception, what advice do you give to people that are trying to maintain relationships?
For people in the music industry that have their relationships, you know…if you don’t take your girl or guy where you go, you really don’t have no relationship, because once you go somewhere, you’re gonna see somebody that’s cute and you’re gonna want some of that. And now you’re caught, you’re in trouble. Now, you all over the news. I just take my girl everywhere I go. Anytime anybody sees a picture of me hugged up with some girl, my wife took the picture. It’s simple. You can’t say, “Ah, she’s pregnant by Charlie Wilson!” My wife’ll say, “You’s a liar because I was right there, you ain’t did nothing with my husband, baby. Get it straight.”
You were diagnosed with prostate cancer in July of last year. How did you react?
When the doctor told me I had prostate cancer, my face really fell off and I was definitely looking on the floor for it. However, my wife, again, was the strong one and was like, “We’re gonna get past this, let’s just go and get it done.” If it hadn’t been for my wife’s insistence than I would’ve never knew I had prostate cancer because I would’ve never went to the doctor for that. I wouldn’t have gone for check-ups as many times as I go. She is the reason why I am as healthy as I am.
What do you want to tell people about the disease?
You always see pink ribbons for breast cancer and you see nothing on prostate cancer. One in six American men will develop prostate cancer. I’ve taken on the stage because I do a lot of performing, but it’s time for me to start informing African-American men that they should go and get a check-up, and get a PSA blood test, a urine test, and a rectal exam. If you don’t, you’re gonna end up with disease and you’re gonna die. Simple as that. I lost my father in June to prostate cancer. He didn’t go early enough and when he did go, it was too late for him and he tried to do chemotherapy. He went back to the doctor and it went away, started playing hide-and-seek with him. He thought he was cured from it. But it came back, it was just all over his body.
Was there any hesitation on making this private matter so public?
It wasn’t all about me. I just wanted to confront men. And I wanted to tell their women to encourage their man to go to the doctor. This disease is for all African-Americans, but nobody’s talking about it. We have to know our history because our grandfathers and great-grandfathers wouldn’t talk about this in the home to the women. I knew my uncles and everybody was dying of cancer, but I didn’t know it was prostate cancer. We have to take the bull by the reins and…just beat it out. I was floored when I heard the word “cancer.” I just thought right then and there that it’s over with, there’s no more singing next month. But, that’s not the case at all. You have to get up and do something about it. I’m a survivor. Full remission. Cancer-free. And so can you.