Legendary singer Charlie Wilson stopped by Majic 102.1 studios to talk about his new album, his battle with prostate cancer and why it’s so important for men to get tested – especially since African American men develop the disease 60% more often than white men…and are twice as likely to die from it than other groups.
“I was diagnosed in 2008 but I am now cancer-free…once I received a national platform I wanted to speak in the communities about having this conversation in your home.”
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When asked about how he maintains his longevity in the music industry, Charlie details how it contributes from his passion to keep releasing records, staying healthy and give fans a great show!
“My band is really young so everybody has the energy level that I require. We level off at the top so if you don’t have the energy, you can’t be in my band.”
“People really don’t know how I laid in the streets,” Wilson said. “From that to this, I cried when they told me I had a Grammy nomination. It still doesn’t seem real to me, because so many doors have been shut on me so many times. … Everything was derailed.”
Wilson says the Gap Band hit a roadblock in 1986 when they asked to split their publishing deal with their manager; Wilson claims the manager dropped them and then had them blackballed in the industry, threatening anyone who tried to sign them since the group was still under contract with him.
“I couldn’t bounce back from that,” he said. “Everywhere we went, he ran interference. He threatened people. It was a sad situation. Drugs came a lot more. My brothers and I weren’t getting along that well.”
Slow cash flow and a cocaine and alcohol addiction drove Wilson to become homeless, as he slept in the alleys of Los Angeles’ famed Hollywood Boulevard between 1993 and 1995.
But Wilson says that it was only by the God’s grace and mercy that he is here now to tell the story. For God sending him his wife in the form of a social worker to helping him past his prostate cancer, “God is a healer,” Charlie states.
In his own words, Charlie recounts when and how he found out about the cancer:
Everything was just going great until I went to the doctor for a general physical in the summer of 2008.
My wife, Mahin, made an appointment for me to have my annual physical. I have never liked going to the doctor or getting any type of exam. In addition to the physical, Mahin suggested I have a prostate exam.
I definitely did not want to have that – for various reasons – but Mahin was very convincing.
After a few days, I heard back from the doctor. He encouraged me to make an appointment for the following month for additional monitoring. He explained that African-American men were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than any other race, and he wanted to keep an eye on things.
I returned in a month. Based on follow-up tests, my doctor suggested that I see a specialist for a biopsy. I immediately got nervous and was concerned about what this could possibly mean.
I remember hearing I had prostate cancer like it was yesterday. I was convinced my life was over. I worked hard at overcoming other life challenges and had the will to return to the top of my game in the music business. I put together a good show; had a catalog of great new songs to record and perform, etc. But now this?!
Our visit with the specialist started with, “I have some good news and some bad news.” My wife asked for the bad news and the doctor said “Mr. Wilson, you have prostate cancer.” My initial reaction was to get up and leave the room. My wife calmly asked me to sit down and have the doctor give us the good news. The good news was that it had been detected early and could be effectively treated.
Thank God for my wife and her patience and understanding. My initial thought was that my life and career were over. Nothing was further from the truth.
The doctor gave us some informational materials and our research began. We discussed options with my health care team and by working with them closely, I am now cancer free.
However, my journey was not over.
During our research I learned that African-American men are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with this disease than other races or ethnicities. It was at that time that I decided it was time for me to start informing as well as performing.
I began to talk about my prostrate cancer diagnosis in my concerts and interviews. Some men asked, “Why are you telling your personal business?” I replied, “It’s my responsibility to make my community aware of this disease and to try to overcome the fear about discussing it.”
During my own prostate cancer battle, I learned that my father was also conducting his own battle. Unfortunately, he did not tell us that he had prostate cancer. It wasn’t until I called to let him know about my diagnosis that he told me. That was a very difficult conversation for me and also confirmed my commitment to tell my story in order to make my community aware of this disease and encourage them to discuss it.