Book Review - I Am Charlie Wilson

Book Review
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"The thrill of creation is indescribable. Magical. And my brothers and I took great pleasure and pride in our art. It was as if we were a bunch of chefs, mixing this with that, tossing beats and guitar licks and runs on the keyboards and blasts of the horns into a stew of funk and soul to feed the people. That's what we called it, ' cooking in the kitchen.' We were taking all of these different sounds bouncing around inside our heads and mixing them up and cooking them down."              

The giddy dance grooves and smoldering slow jams, that signature vocal range and stage presence that are irresistible, unique and undeniably iconic: From backyard barbeques and house parties to stadiums and arenas worldwide, one can instantly distinguish the sound of "Uncle Charlie" Wilson, but until recently, few knew much about the man beyond the gregarious stage persona and the music. 

"The thrill of creation is indescribable. Magical. And my brothers and I took great pleasure and pride in our art. It was as if we were a bunch of chefs, mixing this with that, tossing beats and guitar licks and runs on the keyboards and blasts of the horns into a stew of funk and soul to feed the people. That's what we called it, ' cooking in the kitchen.' We were taking all of these different sounds bouncing around inside our heads and mixing them up and cooking them down."              

The giddy dance grooves and smoldering slow jams, that signature vocal range and stage presence that are irresistible, unique and undeniably iconic: From backyard barbeques and house parties to stadiums and arenas worldwide, one can instantly distinguish the sound of "Uncle Charlie" Wilson, but until recently, few knew much about the man beyond the gregarious stage persona and the music. 

However, thanks to the upcoming release of his first-ever memoir, I Am Charlie Wilson, readers are granted intimate and insightful access to the factors that nurtured his talents, the rise and demise of his family-anchored musical group The Gap Band and how Charlie Wilson sunk into, then emerged from, the life-threatening lows of alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness. 

In the star-studded prologue to the 15 chapters that follow, Charles Kent Wilson candidly shares his humble Tulsa, OK roots and growing up the third of four children with a preacher father and Minister of Music mother, his early obsession with the forbidden secular music and witnessing the intensity of his own burgeoning star power as a fourth grader during a talent show: "My mother couldn't wait to tell my daddy the story when we got home. 'Babe, they ran him into the bathroom. One of the teachers had him over there in a separate room and the halls were full of kids trying to get him,' she said, her laughter met with my father's easy grin. My mom hugged me and said in that soothing voice: 'it's okay, baby. You did good. You did real good."

Years of practice and tutelage under seasoned players, as well as painstaking development of "that Charlie Wilson sound," led Wilson and his brothers from YMCAs and local clubs to professional gigs, actual recording deals and opening up for The Rolling Stones (check out pg. 50 to see how Charlie earned the wrath of Mick Jagger for their show-stealing performance --The Gap Band's first and last). 

However, years of shiesty management, naiveté about the music biz and the residue of a broken home crippled Charlie's self-worth, made him doubt his purpose and led to a drug and alcohol-fueled abyss. But before long, thanks to his never-ending faith and a reawakened belief in The Lord, Wilson encounted a recovered relative in Los Angeles, committed fully to rehab and met the program director who demanded his best, kept it real and set his professional and personal comeback into motion: "There I was, sitting on a bench listening to my attorney, feeling small and frightened as anyone could feel at the prospect of losing his freedom when Mahin burst through the courtroom's heavy wooden doors, pushing past the guard and taking off toward the judge.....she wasted no time before pressing into his hands a business card and a letter she'd written on my behalf, detailing my progress and noting that I was receiving drug counseling and using my spare time to go to schools to talk to kids about my career and all the ways I'd fallen because of my addiction to alcohol and drugs. 'Sending him to jail would not help him at all,' Mahin said insistently."

However, I Am Charlie Wilson is far from a droll and depressing read. Within its pages are the irrefutable moments of faith and fortitude: the serendipitous circumstances that aligned Charlie Wilson with allies even in the midst of dope fiends and drug dealers; the insistence of a wife that led to his discovery of---and recovery from--- prostate cancer; and the past and present stars that championed him, believed in him and set forth a career trajectory in motion that helped Charlie Wilson to meet, and then surpass, any level of success he had ever imagined or earned before. 

From the stories behind his biggest hits, the life-changing hip-hop alliance with Master P and Snoop Dogg that expanded his audience (check out pg. 142 to learn what led Snoop to tears) to the way his true-life testimonies move fans just as deeply as his hits...anyone who enjoys soul music in general and Charlie Wilson in particular will be educated, inspired and that much more adoring of the legend after reading about the man now known worldwide as 'First name Charlie, last name Wilson.'  Enthusiastically Recommended

By Melody Charles

 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

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