Saturday, July 18, 2015

BOOK Review: A Long-Awaited Memoir. . .

Synopsis: The long-awaited memoir of seven-time Grammy-nominated artist Charlie Wilson, the iconic R&B and Funk singer-songwriter-producer interwoven with his recollections of collaborating with fellow artists such as Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, and Snoop Dogg. 

Recognized the world over for his distinct voice and timeless hits spanning a career of nearly half a century, Charlie Wilson is one of the most celebrated musicians of his generation. So it took friends and family by surprise when he checked into rehab and revealed that he had been not only homeless, but also helpless.

Here, in the memoir fans have been demanding, is the story of how love and faith carried him through not only his addiction, but also prostate cancer. Here, too, is the story of his work in the music business, including a career resurgence that saw collaborations with some of the most sought-after artists of today, including Pharrell and Justin Timberlake.

Now over twenty years sober, Wilson recounts a life filled with vertiginous highs and heartbreaking lows. His is a story of triumph over adversity, courage in the face of extreme hardship, and love when all else is lost. It is a tale of the last sixty years in social and pop culture history, and one that will stay with you for years to come.


I cannot express how excited I was to learn Charlie Wilson had written his memoirs – FINALLY! OMG, I’m a huge fan of Uncle Charlie and have been following his career since he sang with his brothers in The GAP Band. What an amazing artist and more importantly, human being. There was always something about Charlie that you just knew he had “it.” Not everyone has it, but Charlie definitely does.

He’s one of those artists that you just cannot hate. I’m sure there are people who aren’t fans, but it’s hard not to be a fan of this man. In his memoir, he takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster, and when I tell you he was very open and honest, that is truly an understatement. He broke it all down from the great highlights in his life, to the lowest of low. I remember a few years back when I heard him doing an interview wherein he spoke candidly about being a drug addict and homeless. My jaw literally hit the floor. Here, while I was enjoying his music back in the day and being the na├»ve star-craved fan thinking he was riding high, who the hell knew he was homeless and broke? Charlie Wilson homeless, broke and strung out on drugs? Say what now? Jesus, I just couldn’t believe it. And after so many years of wanting desperately to read his story, he gave it to me in more ways than one.

What I loved most about his memoir is that it wasn’t bullshit. I’ve read countless memoirs from stars I’ve admired over the years and you can just tell when they were really giving their fans what they wanted and when they were holding back and only trying to make a coin and give you half-truths. Charlie told his story straight up and from a dark place that I’m positive had to be horrible to relive and conjure up old demons—some of which he still fights to this very day. 

It was awesome to read about his parents and growing up with his brothers and sister. I never even knew he had a sister, and she sings too. His entire family are musical geniuses in their own right. He speaks openly about his first time performing on stage as a little boy. And being shy was never in his DNA for he first got his taste of entertaining in the church, as many African-American artists do. Charlie takes his readers on a journey and you’re all too willing to hop in the seat, buckle up and see where the destination leads. I can say happily his destination is beyond the sky’s limit. This man shows no signs of stopping. He’s such a professional and true to his artistry and you feel that in his music.

I remember when The GAP Band III album hit the shelves in the record store in tow producing the monster smash, Yearning for Your Love, I liked to up and lost all of my mind. You couldn’t tell me nothing when that song came on. OMG, I pestered the DJs to play that song every hour on the hour. My mother bought the album for me and it sounded like bacon frying I played it so much. I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside whenever I hear it. And who knew while I was sitting back enjoying that awesome album, Charlie was homeless. I just cannot believe that. When he tells you about the shoddy contracts he signed and the shyster managers and record companies he and his brothers dealt with, when their career was on ten, you feel his pain. It was painful to read some of his truth. This is another reason why I respect Charlie so much because he stands in his truth—but you better trust and believe, it didn’t start out that way. Learning to deal with his truth was a process.

Part of that process was his faith in God and his beautiful and loving wife, Mahin. When I tell you his wife is a true Ride or Die type of chick, her picture is the poster child for it. She went and still goes well beyond the scope of what a real wife does for her husband. I absolutely adore his wife and I don’t even know her, but Charlie brings his wife to life on those pages and you will quickly learn why he loves his wife so. This woman is an angel, which he mentions many times. God truly did send him an angel and he was and is so deserving of her. Mahin knows what it means to be a wife and to love her man. She’s my kind of gal. Huge props and kudos go to her because this woman has been through it, you hear me! Been there and done that and still there and doing that all for the love of her Charlie. Ain’t a damn thing wrong with that! I love it. They have an incredible relationship.

Needless to say, Charlie impressed me so much, which I had no doubt. I’ve always been a fan and I will continue to support his music. He’s so real and I can relate and appreciate a brother like that. He’s more than a boy-next-door type of guy, he’s the dude that is down for the cause and helping to uplift his fellow man—regardless as to color, creed, sex, nationality, etc. His truth could be anyone’s story. After suffering through the tough years on drugs, he still was able to bounce back. What the drugs didn’t do, prostate cancer tried, but once again, God was on his side right along with Mahin. He beat it, and thank God for his wife demanding he get check-ups. Had he not listened to his wife, we might not be celebrating Charlie’s accomplishments in this sense. Early prevention saved his life. As he said, “God is so good!” He ain’t never lied!

This was one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. I was blown away with how down-to-earth Charlie is and how honest he was with his fans. He didn’t have to allow us in his life the way he did, and I appreciate that he kept it one hundred! Like I said, you can always tell when celebrities are holding back, but Charlie let it flow. 

Mello & June give this memoir five stars. “Outstanding!” Another of my favs from The GAP Band. Keep doin’ you, Uncle Charlie. You got this!

Side Note:  Charlie not only wrote an “Outstanding” book, he gave us plenty of pictures to boot!  You Rock, Brotha!

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

When People Lose Faith in You. . .
God Never Does! . . .