Charlie Wilson, the electrifying, energetic, time-defying singer, songwriter, producer and former lead vocalist for the Gap Band, has a style and swerve that command both respect and attention.
But it’s his testimony, his unquestionable love for God and his humble spirit that make him a rare gem in an industry where the kind of success “Uncle Charlie” has achieved often causes entertainers to forget their past and to believe that they, and they alone, stand at the center of the universe.
When Wilson steps out on D.C.’s Verizon Center stage on Sunday, Feb. 12 along with musical guests Fantasia, Johnny Gill and newcomer Solero, he promises that his fans who have supported him for decades will leave the arena singing some of his defining tunes, with fingers popping and wanting more.
“Just watch how we come on stage — and how we leave,” he said.
“We’re still putting the finishing touches on the show, mainly because I insist that things must be perfect for my fans,” said Wilson, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Jan. 29 and has become a dedicated spokesperson for prostate cancer after battling the disease now in remission.
“We bring a lot of energy to the stage so I have to stay in shape. When I was younger I didn’t get it — now I do. I listen to myself, to my voice and work really hard to sound the same way live as I do on my recordings,” he said.
“Many singers just go through the motions of making noise, unable to see that singing is an art form. I wouldn’t say I’m the best singer around but I know a lot of others who would rather hear someone else instead of themselves. I still enjoy hearing me but it takes hard work,” said Wilson, who has garnered 11 Grammy nominations along with being honored with BET’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award and capturing Billboard’s No. 1 Adult Artist Award in 2009.
Now sitting comfortably at the top of his game, and with many “wanting to get on board,” Wilson says he never forgets the days when drug and alcohol addiction almost took his life, even leaving him temporarily homeless.
“My wife is my angel and we go everywhere together, except to public bathrooms,” he said while laughing at his own words. “We even go to the grocery store together and we don’t have any secrets. None of that. And whenever problems emerge, we work them out at that moment and then toss them into the trash. When I went to get myself cleaned up, she was what I needed. Without her I know I’d be dead.”
Wilson, perhaps in part because of the hard-earned wisdom he’s acquired after overcoming great adversity, has taken on the role of mentor, advising younger artists, including the three who he chose to join him on his new show, the “In It to Win It” Tour — also the title of his February 2017 CD release.
“God has given me a message to share and I obey Him. I’ve made mistakes and been blessed to correct many of the wrongs I once committed. Younger artists don’t need to go through the same pain I experienced. But sometimes they don’t want to listen. Some will have to fall and bust their heads I guess. The danger, however, is some people aren’t able to get back up like I somehow did,” he added.
Like his new CD, Wilson says the show will feature a combination of quality horns, strings and other instruments with hip-hop beats, bumping bass lines and plenty of intricately developed vocals.
“Of course at the end of the day I’m an R&B vocalist — that’s how I roll. That’s who I am. When I got myself back on track and wanted to do the solo thing, some folks said I was crazy. Many, including a few industry executives whom I had known for years, doubted me. They said I shouldn’t even try. But I told them I was like the little engine that could not — that could not believe that it was possible.”
“Today, tomorrow and all of the days that follow, it’s all about staying positive and giving God the praise,” Wilson said emphatically.
For ticket information, visit Ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000.