R&B Legend Charlie Wilson performs at NY State Fair (Exclusive Interview)

R&B Legend Charlie Wilson performs at NY State Fair
Interview by Michael Aaron Gallagher

Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson
For Charlie Wilson, the road back to the top has been quite a journey, filled with homelessness, substance abuse, redemption, multiple No. 1 hits and eventually Grammy award nominations.

On Sept. 2, Wilson returns to Central New York to bring his legendary rhythm and blues sound, performing a free concert on the Chevy Court stage at the New York State Fair. Best known for songs like “There Goes My Baby” and “You Are,” the 58 year-old former lead singer for the Gap Band is also known to fans as “Uncle Charlie.”

“My style of singing never went out of style,” Wilson said. “And that’s the reason I’ve been fortunate enough to still be in this game at the level that I’m playing at right now.”

Wilson, who is a prostate cancer survivor and spokesperson for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, also shares his medical story with fans and encourages them to go to the doctor for a checkup and support cancer research.

According to the singer, his testimony on a radio show even inspired one Atlanta man to persuade 12 members of his family and friends to get tested, which resulted in all of them receiving a life-saving diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer.

“We, as African American men, we don’t really like to go to the doctor and we don’t really want to know what’s wrong with us,” Wilson said. “I’m just glad to be a spokesperson. I bring an awareness to our community.”

Of all of his achievements throughout the years, Wilson said he is most proud of his successful return to the music business after a personal struggle with alcohol and substance abuse.

“My proudest accomplishment is rising back to the top…. getting back to No. 1,” Wilson said. “It was a pivotal moment for me, you know, just getting back from nowhere. Because a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do it. And my career’s just grown tremendously since ‘04.”

His recent collaborations include recording artists like Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Jamie Foxx. When asked what memories stand out in his mind, “I would have to probably say Kanye,” Wilson said. “Some of the moments we had in the studio dancing together. A lot of rappers/producers/writers usually don’t open themselves up like that around other stars and other singers. But he opened himself up. He just let himself go in there. So me and him and Mos Def were in the studio just dancin’ like kids.”

Wilson is planning to bring some of that dancing to the Fair this year, introducing a younger generation to his music.

“If you come out and see me perform, trust me, I will delight you,” he said. “I raise the bar to R&B tunes… I’m not just standing in one place. There’s a lot to it – there’s colors, there’s changing clothes, there’s everything, there’s the hits, there’s the old school stuff. It’s all mixed together. You don’t want to miss this show.”

And for the singer far from the streets of Hollywood, where he once sought shelter, Wilson offers this advice:

“First of all, everybody goes through something,” he said. “We all have perils. We all have obstacles. Mine was drug and alcohol abuse. I tell people, whoever is on drugs or on alcohol, or in a bad relationship… I just say, your blessings are ahead of you and you can’t look back at the storm. The storm is behind you now. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and take this day and hold your head up high. Stand up and walk again. And start your life over. Sometimes you don’t think that you can come out of a situation, but as long as you put your trust in God and your faith remains strong, then you can overcome anything.”

R&B Legend Charlie Wilson performs at NY State Fair
Copyright 2011 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photograph provided by Charlie Wilson

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