MIAMI — As lead singer of the funk group the Gap Band, Charlie Wilson enjoyed a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s before losing his musical momentum to drugs and alcohol. After a stint in rehab, Wilson got his career back on track with six solo albums and nine Grammy nominations.
Wilson is currently promoting his latest album, Forever Charlie, with a headline tour that stops at the American Airlines Arena on Friday. Soul crooners Joe and Kem will also perform.
The 62-year-old Wilson is known for his dynamic and high-energy performances that have helped garner him his eighth appearance this summer at the annual Essence Music Festival.
“It is like the Gap Band times 10,” Wilson said of his performance.
Sober for 20 years, Wilson will
share his life journey in the memoir titled, I Am Charlie Wilson,” which will be released June 30. The book will share the highs and lows of his life, from being a founding member of the Gap Band –with hits such as Outstanding, You Dropped a Bomb on Me, and Yearning For Your Love – to battling drug and alcohol addiction and becoming homeless to climbing to the top of the charts once again.
Wilson began his climb back to the top of charts as a solo artist with a No.1 Billboard Urban Adult Contemporary hit, Without You in 2000. Several albums and Grammy nominations later, Wilson has also received the 2009 Soul Train Icon Award and the BET Awards’ 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a 2005 BMI Icon Award honoree, was named Billboard’s No. 1 Adult Artist in 2009 and received the Trumpet Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. In 2014, Wilson earned yet another Grammy nomination for If I Believe in the Best Gospel Song category.
For the past 25 years, Wilson said he wanted to write his memoir but waited until the most opportune moment. The book includes not only his battle with addiction but his heartbreaks as well.
“I wanted to write my story while I am at a happy point in my life now,” Wilson said. “It was hard to go back and rehash those emotions. I am telling things people never knew.”
Wilson has also become in demand to perform with hip hop artists as well. His creative relationship with close friend Snoop Dogg has resulted in songs with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Pharrell and Kanye West. In 2014, he earned two Grammy nominations — Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song — for his singing and songwriting contributions to Kanye West’s Bound 2.
“We are like family,” Wilson said of his relationship with Snoop Dogg. “I watched his kids grow up. I have gotten family portrait Christmas cards each year since they were babies.”