cover image I Am Charlie Wilson

I Am Charlie Wilson

Charlie Wilson. Atria , $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9007-7

In this repetitious but inspiring memoir, R&B singer Wilson recalls watching his father, a Church of God preacher, jumping, singing, and stirring souls in their Tulsa, Okla., church in the 1950s and '60s. Wilson was soon doing the same. From his mother, Wilson learns that singing any music other than gospel might have dire consequences, but in his teens he joined his brother's band%E2%80%94the Greenwood Archer Pine Street Band, or the Gap Band%E2%80%94and began playing in clubs around town. With fondness, he tells stories of working at Shelter Records, backing up Leon Russell, and explores the Gap Band's instrumental role in paving the way for contemporary hip-hop and rhythm and blues. Through all the excitement of his early success, though, Wilson admits to being broke%E2%80%94even after releasing nine albums%E2%80%94due to bad business decisions; to having low self-esteem; and to beginning an addiction that eventually left him friendless and homeless. In the lowest depths of his addiction, he meets and marries Mahin Tat, who helps pull him out of his drug-addled inferno and sets him back on the road to making the music he loves. With the release of his 2005 album Charlie, Last Name Wilson, the singer made a comeback, working with the likes of Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Beyonc%C3%A9, and Snoop Dogg. Wilson's engaging story frames the excesses of a life in popular music while illustrating the ways that faith, love, determination can overcome even major obstacles. (June)