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‘Uncle Charlie’s’ comingWilson performing Mother’s Day

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Are you still looking for that special, unique gift for your mother?

Lifting her mood with fun, romantic music might be the perfect answer.

Popular R&B vocalist Charlie Wilson promises to provide mothers – and everyone else in the family – with a night to remember, when he visits the Old National Centre (formerly the Murat Theatre) in Indianapolis on Mother’s Day, May 9.

Wilson, best known as lead singer of The Gap Band, will perform classics he made with the group as well as current favorites that have topped the charts.

A native of Tulsa, Okla., Wilson and his brothers, Robert and Ronnie, formed The Gap band and reached international stardom in the 1980s with hits such as “Outstanding,” “Early in the Morning,” “Party Train,” “Yearning For Your Love,” “Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),” and “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Upside Your Head).”

Wilson became known for his strong, expressive baritone voice, quirky ad-libs and a style of showmanship that brought contagious energy to live shows.

Inspiring comeback

However, after their last major hit, the 1990s smash “All of My Love,” the band took a hiatus due to changing musical tastes and Wilson’s struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. That struggle led to Wilson losing his money and becoming homeless in the mid ’90s.

Addicted to cocaine, Wilson lived on the streets of Hollywood and slept in a grassy area behind a pawnshop. A homeless couple that camped nearby would sometimes share food and a makeshift shelter of shopping carts and tarp when it rained.

To protect his image, Wilson avoided large soup kitchens and shelters. Instead, he roamed the streets, pretending he was going to a studio, and played the part of a big shot searching Hollywood’s underworld for drugs.

“You could still hear my records on the radio,” he said in a recent interview. “People gave me drugs because they thought I was still on top. Nobody knew I had sunk this far.”

Wilson’s life began to change when a cousin, who also had struggled with drug addiction, intervened and placed him in a treatment center. One of the counselors there, not realizing she was dealing with a former star, helped Wilson in his recovery, and he later married her. With treatment and the support of his new wife, Wilson rebounded.

Uncle Charlie

With his life restored, Wilson then worked to revive his music career. His new manager skillfully restored The Gap Band’s profitability as a concert act, booking the group on successful “old school” package tours.

Also, hip-hop artists who grew up enjoying Wilson’s music asked “Uncle Charlie” to appear on various songs such as Snoop Dogg, Pharell Williams, Kanye West, Lil’ Kim and The Black Eyed Peas.

“It is a true honor to be able to continue to work with today’s hottest and biggest artists,” he said. “As long as they still want me, I am here.”

By 2000, Wilson had emerged as a solo artist releasing the surprise adult urban contemporary hit “Without You.” In 2005 he returned with the successful R. Kelly and T-Pain produced “Charlie, Last Name Wilson.”

However, last year became the most successful of Wilson’s career, with the release of “Uncle Charlie,” which debuted at No. 1 on the R&B charts. The first single from that album, the Babyface produced “There Goes My Baby,” topped Billboard’s R&B chart for 10 weeks. The song was credited with being retro without sounding dated, and appealed to both old and new fans.

The current single “Can’t Live Without You” has been in the Top 10 for 20 weeks.

Wilson has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and an NAACP Image Award.

However, the entertainer is not just enjoying his newfound fame for himself. Wilson is also taking time out for good causes, performing for American soldiers overseas and serving as a spokesman for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

“It is time not just to perform, but to inform my brothers and their families about this disease,” he said.

Last year Wilson, who lost his father to prostate cancer and successfully overcame it himself, was given the Rev. Charles Williams Award by Indiana Black Expo for his efforts to prevent cancer.

Many who have seen Wilson’s current touring show say it should not be missed.

“What I saw was the greatest single living performer of legendary status of our time,” comedian and commentator Steve Harvey said recently. “Charlie’s voice is amazing and his energy and the level of intensity that he has is unbelievable.”

Take mom

to see Charlie!

Who: Charlie Wilson

When: Sunday, May 9 (Mother’s Day) at 7 p.m.

Where: Old National Centre, 502 N. New Jersey St. (Murat Theatre)

Tickets: $ 34.99 and $44.99

For more information: Call the box office at (317) 231-0000, or Ticketmaster at (317) 239-5151.

Did you know?

n Charlie Wilson was the guest singer on Roger Troutman’s 1983 hit “Computer Love.”

n The Gap Band® played the theme to the 1988 comedy film “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.”

n Wilson has new line of “Uncle Charlie” hats available for sale.

n Snoop Dogg is the one who first started calling Wilson “Uncle Charlie.” The two have a close friendship, and Snoop and his wife were the subjects of the video for “There Goes My Baby.”

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