Charlie Wilson is incredibly open, honest and extremely candid when talking about the ups and downs his life and career have taken. The Grammy-nominated singer who struggled with drug addiction and a period of homelessness, stands as a symbol of success and inspiration and it's all due, he says, to his faith in God.
"My faith in God is tremendous," shares the 61-year old entertainer in an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald. "Everything that I have now and everything that is working in my life, God arranged it."
From Tragedy to Triumph
For Wilson, his struggles, which he documents in a soon to be released autobiography, began in the mid-90s after the breakup of the Gap Band, a funk ensemble which he started with his two brothers Ronnie and Robert that rose to prominence during the '70s and '80s. A downward spiral into drug addiction, he claims, left him "famous and homeless" after a dispute with their manager who had them blackballed in the industry.
"I was powerless over the drugs and I just prayed to God," shares Wilson, who says he slept in the alleys of Los Angeles' famed Hollywood Boulevard between 1993 and 1995. "When you surrender that's when things start happening for you and God starts working miracles in your life. As soon as I did that my life changed."
After two years of living on the streets, Wilson finally sought help and entered rehab in 1995. It's there he met Mahin, a drug counselor he calls an angel who guided him to the path of recovery. He married Mahin that year.
"Marrying Mahin is one of my greatest achievements. God speaks to this woman all the time and he placed her in my life so I could live a healthy and happy life because everything that I had done on my own just didn't work."
The son of a Pentecostal minister, he grew up singing in Church in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and knows the meaning of hard work, sacrifice and beating the odds for he has turned his life around and refashioned himself as a contemporary hit maker. Now a solo R&B artist, his work has earned him numerous accolades and honors, including a Life time Achievement Award. He earned his seventh Grammy nomination this year for his first gospel track "If I Believe," a track from his fourth solo album "Love, Charlie." An inspirational song he performed at BET's Celebration of Gospel, he stole the show that evening garnering over 3,500 tweets on social media, proving that he is still the singer and showman he was in the early 80s, when he led the Gap Band through its biggest hits.
"Wherever I do shows I am dropping and giving God praise," shares the energetic performer. "I promised him that if he was to get me off the streets and out of the curve and from the darkest alleys and the worst places in life, that I would praise him wherever I was at. Every time I shout him out blessings fall from the heavens," adds Wilson who plans on releasing more gospel tracks on his forthcoming album. "I wrote that song to inspire others and you will hear more gospel tacks on my next album. That's for sure."
It's an album, he says, he is releasing along with the book next year. The book, which remains untitled, will be published by Simon & Schuster and will detail his battle with prostate cancer in 2009 and the incredible story of his journey to redemption. A journey he says that concludes not in tragedy, but in triumph.
"We are still toying with titles right now and as soon as we have proofread it we will tell you the title," he shares. "What I can tell you is that it will be released in January 2015 and in the book I share how good God is. I will share what I went through, how I got to where I was and how he protected me the whole time I was on the streets, and then allowed me to accelerate and excel one more time in life, because I asked him for it. God will give you your heart's desire if you give him some of your time and some of your praise."
Now cancer-free, Wilson is an outspoken advocate for cancer screening and research and has made it his mission to alert men to the benefits of early detection and treatment.
"Left and right the blessings have come from everywhere. I've had that chance that everybody wishes they could have. I didn't receive all those things when I was younger and God has allowed my latter days to be the better days. He has allowed me to have a ministry of music. I believe that God has kept me living so I can be a testimony for others."
Charlie's acceptance speech when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award
Charlie Wilson - If I Believe (Official Video)