A Jamie Foster Brown Interview (excerpted from the July 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine)
Charlie Wilson’s voice is still as strong as when he was a young pup singing with The Gap Band. His spirit and kindness is incomparable. It’s always a joy to be with him, his wife Mahin and her son Michael, who manages Charlie.
Earlier this year, Charlie revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I thank Mahin for taking such good care of him. Mahin was the driving force behind him getting tested for prostate cancer. (Mahin also saved Charlie’s butt from drugs—he went to rehab about 15 years ago, and her son Michael, an amazing manager, saved Charlie’s career!)
I went to see them during Charlie’s sound check before his show in Washington, D.C. Charlie and I danced together and got caught up. (We did this interview earlier, by phone.) We talked about his 20-acre ranch, which my husband Lorenzo and I are going to visit very soon. Charlie also told me about his exotic animals, his brothers Ronnie and Robert Wilson, and how he’s feeling better than ever. We talked about the success of his hit single, “There Goes My Baby,” written by Babyface and Calvin Richardson. His album Uncle Charlie debuted at #1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart in February. He’s back!
According to the Krongard institute, prostate cancer kills 500 American men weekly. Charlie wants men to get tested so they don’t become a statistic, and he wants us women to make sure that our guys go in for their checkups. And wait until you hear what he has to say about cancer and sex!
Charlie is a true survivor. Go to s2smagazine.com/videos to see him in action.
Jamie: Hi, what are you doing?
Charlie: I just got back from Iraq.
Jamie: You should’ve taken me to Iraq. How was that?
Charlie: Oh my gosh, Jamie, that was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I have the utmost respect for soldiers now. I mean, not that I hadn’t before, but oh my gosh! The guys put so much on the line.
Jamie: Like what? Tell me.
Charlie: I’m there on bases and I hear ratatatatat all night—1, 2, 3 in the morning, all day, then they try to come watch the show. I mean, they have to go on missions during the daytime and try to watch me perform at night. It’s incredible when they go outside that wire; they don’t have a clue if they’re going to make it back or not.
Jamie: How many shows did you have?
Charlie: We had five.
Jamie: Who performed? Was it the Gap Band?
Charlie: It was just Charlie and Gap. We billed it as such.
Jamie: Was it hot?
Charlie: The weather was really nice—sometimes 65 in the daytime, some places 70s, then in the night it got out in the 50s where I could comfortably perform.
Jamie: And you’re performing outside?
Charlie: I performed outside, all but one place.
Jamie: So were you nervous about the ratatatat?
Charlie: At first I wasn’t nervous because they made us feel comfortable. I really don’t know if I should be talking about it, but they basically told me that the noise that I was hearing was the ratatatat and the booms on the range and they were firing explosions in the ground and doing tests. We was like, are you guys under any fire? And nobody really said anything. So we asked to go to the range; we had some recreation, but at the same time we’re still hearing that ratatatat. So we was like, what’s everybody else shooting? If we’re shooting here, then where’s everybody else shooting?
Charlie: You know what I’m saying? So it was a lie. ’Cause I heard that all through the night. Anyway, we went to the cafeteria and ran up on this little guy who was just so excited from seeing me and all singing, [my song “First Name Charlie, Last Name Wilson”] “Hey girl, how you doing?” Going through his little notion and motion. Then finally I ask him, “So, how is everything over here, man?” And he’s like, “Man!” I said, “You look like you’re worried about something.” He said, “Man, I think I lost my homie this morning, man.” I was like, “That’s what all that shooting was about.” They got hit really hard. So then I’m nervous. I’m hearing all the ratatat and then the booms, and it was a scary moment. But at the same time I’m looking at all of the soldiers walking, coming and going, and they’re giving me hugs, so I have to—I’m standing tall as well.
Jamie: Yeah, stand strong.
Charlie: I’m going to stand as tall as they’re standing, you know what I’m saying? They’re putting it on the line and I’m just there for one day; they’re there all day, every day.
Jamie: So how did you travel from one place to another?
Charlie: Well, we did Shanooks—those big helicopters like the president’s with the double propellers.
Charlie: We rode with other soldiers on Blackhawks and C130s and C17s—you know, those aircraft where the door comes back and you can roll artillery up the back. That’s how we traveled, with armor, vests, helmets, the backpacks—the whole nine yards.
Jamie: You’re living out in LA now, right? When did you move out there? You know y’all were living on a mountain [in St. Croix].
Charlie: Yeah we moved out here in 2000, Jamie.
Jamie: So you left the place alone in St. Croix?
Charlie: We gave that particular place up. We still have property down there and another place that’s there that’s being built, but we moved from there. Somebody broke into our house on top of that mountain and we felt disrespected. So like, okay, they done put their hands on me, now we got to go. Because we were hardly ever there, you know?
Jamie: Right. Did they take a lot?
Charlie: Well, they took a lot of worthless stuff. Because I think they just took stuff they could carry.
Jamie: Now, what is this about you having cancer? You need to come over here and let me heal you!
Charlie: [to his wife] Jamie said, “You need to come over here and let me heal you.” [laughter]
Pick up the July 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine to see how Charlie found out he had cancer.