“Pittsburghers can expect to see a show like they have never seen before. There will be a lot of dancing and movement on the stage. Uncle Charlie does it different than the Gap Band,” said singer Charlie Wilson about his recent performance at the Classic Soul Music Festival on May 14. “I came to turn this mother out.”
And Uncle Charlie surely delivered a fantastic show.
Wilson effortlessly weaved a show together with his new songs and Gap Band favorites.
He came on stage dressed in a black suit with a royal purple shirt and black newsboy cap. He immediately launched into the Gap Band hit, “Party Train,” which brought the audience to its feet.
“This feels real good to me. It feels real good being back in Pittsburgh,” Wilson said. “This is the best concert I’ve played all year. Thank you very much.”
Wilson first gained musical fame as front man for the Gap Band, which he created with his brothers Ronnie and Robert Wilson in 1967. The name was chosen to pay homage to some streets in the African-American business district in Tulsa, Okla. In 1979, the band gained success with the song, “I Don’t Believe You Wanna Get Up and Dance (Oops!).” Throughout the 1980’s the band continued to rack up the hits with songs like “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),” “Yearning For Your Love,” “Outstanding,” Humpin’” “Early In the Morning,” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.”
The concert continued when Wilson paid homage to his friend, Rapper Snoop Dogg, by doing a unique rendition of Snoop’s “Beautiful.” Other songs Wilson performed included Guy’s “Let’s Chill.”
During “Let’s Chill,” Wilson handed out long-stemmed red roses to several lucky ladies in the front row.
The singer left the stage many times for one for several wardrobe changes.
During this time Wilson’s band members showed off their talent individually and collectively through various solos and instrumental interludes.
When Wilson returned he was decked out in black pants, short-sleeved royal purple shirt, purple shoes and one of his signature fedora hats. It was also purple.
He launched into more Gap Band songs including “My Heart Is Yearning For Your Love,” “Outstanding,” and “Early In the Morning.”
“I was with my brothers for a long time and we had a great run and then something took a hold of me and took me away from my music,” he said. “I went from rags to riches to riches to rags and then to homelessness.”
Wilson was referring to his years as an alcoholic and drug user, which left him homeless.
He went to rehab and got himself together. He has been clean and sober for 16 years.
In 2005, Wilson was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“My doctor told me that he had good news and bad news,” Wilson said. “He told me that the bad news was that I had prostate cancer. The good news was that it was detected very early and they thought they could get it all. Then they gave me a brochure with options and I took the option that was best for me.”
Statistics show that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and accounts for about 10 percent of male cancer-related deaths.
Now that he is cancer free, Wilson is using his celebrity platform and traveling to neighborhoods across the country to persuade African-American men to get tested.
“Men are wusses and we don’t want to know what’s wrong with them. Men need to man up,” Wilson said.
“I give real talk to Black men. I tell them if you catch anything early you can beat it,” Wilson said. “I wanted to let men know that I had this disease and I want to get men to go to the doctor.”
Wilson believes another reason Black men don’t get tested for prostate cancer is because the disease is rarely discussed in the Black home.
“I lost my dad to prostate cancer. He didn’t talk about it and when he told us about it, it had spread throughout his whole body and took him out. We don’t talk about it, especially older adults.”
Wilson has partnered with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to raise money to help find a cure for the disease. To date, the PCF has raised $4 million for research.
“I’m living now because of research,” he said.
In addition to research, Wilson attributes his wife, Mahin, to saving his life.
“I am so fortunate to have a friend, wife and partner all rolled into one,” he said. “She always told me never to give up. Even in my darkest days she kept me from giving up.”
Wilson didn’t disappoint those who came to hear his solo hits during the Music and Soul Festival concert.
He performed many of his Top 10 hits from his solo albums including “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,” “Can’t Live Without You” and “There Goes My Baby.”
“I’ve had six number one records and over a half million records sold. You made that. Don’t ever give up on your dreams. It’s never too late,” said Wilson to the audience before ending the show with “There Goes My Baby.”
The show featured soul legends Con Funk Shun, local music group, Artistree and Detroit-based comedian Kool-Aid.
Kool-Aid got the audience ready for what would be an amazing night of music by making jokes about relationships and love.
Following Kool-Aid, Pittsburgh’s own Artistree hit the stage and wowed the audience by putting their unique spin on “Treat Her Like a Lady” and “Stay.”
The group definitely left the audience wanting to hear more.
When he isn’t making the ladies swoon with his powerful vocals, Wilson enjoys spending time with his wife and working on his Uncle Charlie fedora line of hats.
He got the idea for the hats after attending a country western concert and noticed that all the people in the audience wore cowboy hats.
“I said I’d like to see everyone in my audience wearing an Uncle Charlie hat,” he said.
The hats are approximately $30. Half of the proceeds from the sales will be given to the PCF.
“That makes it worthwhile. I really hope I’m making a difference. We really don’t have to die like that,” Wilson said, referring to prostate cancer.