Charlie Wilson at Star Plaza Theatre, Mar 11 | Concert preview
The Gap Band’s Wilson has hooked the next generation without trying to emulate it, as demonstrated on grown-ass pickup anthems like 2009’s “There Goes My Baby.”
People give props to Jack White for his revivals of Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson. But Chicago’s most loved and hated son, R. Kelly, has had a far more magical touch in jump-starting his heroes’ careers.
When Kells reinvented Ron Isley and Charlie Wilson as Mr. Biggs and Uncle Charlie, respectively, he not only got them back in the studio and in critics’ hearts, but also got songs on heavy rotation on radio and BET. Isley got the short straw, as Biggs was introduced as a cuckold in one of Kelly’s R&B operettas. Uncle Charlie got nothing but respect on 2005’s Kelly-produced Charlie, Last Name Wilson.
Alongside his brothers in the Gap Band since the late ’60s, Wilson became an inspiration to the hip-hop generation with club classics like “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” and “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” A rarity in funk, Wilson’s smooth vocals left as much of an impression as the heavy bottom end; his golden tones cut through the grooves.
Also impressive is Wilson’s embrace of maturity in recent material. He has hooked the next generation without trying to emulate it, as demonstrated on grown-ass pickup anthems like 2009’s “There Goes My Baby” or “You Are” from last year’s Just Charlie. It’s the rare tune that can play at as many 50th-anniversary parties as proms.