Next weekend here in South Florida we will welcome a large yearly concert called Jazz in the Gardens. It is held at Sun Life Stadium and features some of the biggest names in jazz and R&B music all together on stage for a two-day event. There are so many artists whom I would love to see even if performing alone, but this show will be a major event with several fan favorite artists together for all to enjoy. The list of entertainers such as Ne-Yo, Fantasia, Earth Wind and Fire, Monica and New Edition are all sensational stories within the music industry in their own rights, but in writing the Weekly Music Commentary, I always choose to feature only one musician out of respect for their individual creations. This week I chose another of my favorite entertainers scheduled to appear at Jazz in the Gardens: Charlie Wilson.
Uncle Charlie (a nickname given to him by rap artist Snoop Dogg) is unique not only because he has been active in the music industry since 1967, but also because he continues to produce records that show up regularly on the Billboard charts. At sixty years old Charlie Wilson is still performing and recording music that is up to date. Truly the envy of his musical peers, I have heard more than one artist state that they would like to do what Charlie is doing. What Charlie is doing is making sure his music is relevant while not compromising his own style and artistic flair.
I appreciate his longevity in the music industry because I not only see and hear him today, but I very much remember his performances with his group, the Gap Band. Music from the Gap Band was always popular with my high school marching band, not to mention the millions of fans from all corners of the world. After reflecting on the career of Charlie Wilson, like many musicians there have been good times as well as bad. Also like many in the music industry, Charlie Wilson had alcohol and drug abuse problems that might have cut his career short.
My father and I talked a great deal about so many other jazz musicians he knew who became habitual drug users. Some ended tragically with major health problems and too many times death. After the breakup of the Gap Band, Wilson’s drug and alcohol problems continued throughout the late 1980’s and into the mid 1990’s. In 1994 Wilson entered rehab and started to turn his life around and in 1995 he married his current wife Mahin, and started the next stage in his life. An additional part of Wilson turning it all around was manager Michael Paren of P Music Group who persuaded Wilson to embark on a solo career, and later helped negotiate a multi-album deal with Jive Records. The first album from that deal Charlie, Last Name Wilson, was released August 2005 and Charlie Wilson has been a constant name in the Billboard charts ever since. January 29, 2013 he released Love, Charlie and there seems to be no slowing down in Charlie Wilson or his music.
In between his string of solo hits Charlie Wilson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2008. The cancer was detected early so Wilson started treatment immediately and now is cancer free. He did not keep the diagnosis and subsequent battle private and stated, “I’ve always been performing but now its time for me to start informing.” Wilson teamed with the Prostate Cancer Foundation in 2008 and is the national spokesperson. “When I learned that the PCF had helped to build a global research enterprise of nearly $10 billion and funded more than 1500 programs at nearly 200 research centers in 12 countries, I knew I wanted to support their efforts.”
In our time we recognize great musical endeavors by giving Lifetime Achievement awards. With Charlie Wilson, we can award him by listening to his music and attending his more than stellar performances around the world. Don’t miss the opportunity when he comes to your city.