Ronnie Wilson: Musician who brought groove to many funk hits
A multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of The Gap Band, Ronnie Wilson, who has died aged 73, provided the musical backbone to many of the grooviest funk-soul hits of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Alongside his brothers Charlie and Robert, Ronnie forged an enduring legacy that extended beyond the boundaries of the band’s discography – their songs were frequently sampled by artists such as NWA, Mary J Blige, and Tyler, the Creator.
The eldest of the three brothers, Ronne was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Oscar and Irma Wilma. Oscar, in his role as a minister, would preface his sermons with his young sons’ performances, with their mother accompanying on piano. Despite their father’s strict forbidding of secular music, Ronnie and his brothers nonetheless devoured a wide array of R&B influences: James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and whoever else they could successfully smuggle into the household.
From these clandestine listening sessions would eventually emerge The Gap Band; or, as it was originally known, “The Greenwood, Archer, Pine Band”, in reference to the three streets that comprised Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” district.
The band’s name was also a call to remembrance, marking the history of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, when a white mob set ablaze some 35 blocks of the predominantly black district and murdered an estimated 300 residents. The band would repeatedly call attention to this once-obscure tragedy throughout their touring in the 1980s, and it has been long speculated that the band’s hit song “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” was inspired by the massacre.
The Gap Band released their debut album Magicians Holiday in 1974, on which Ronnie contributed backing vocals and trumpet. The album was recorded entirely in the Church Studio: a former Methodist church bought by Leon Russell in 1972, as a home for his newly founded Shelter Records.
© Getty: Wilson (pictured in 1980) contributed piano, keyboard, trumpet, backing vocals and flugelhorn on the band’s eponymous breakthrough 1979 album
Russell, an accomplished musician who frequently collaborated with the likes of George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, had scouted the brothers at one of their local shows, and invited the band to play in the recording sessions for his album Stop All That Jazz (1974).
Ronnie added keyboard to his repertoire for the band’s follow-up album The Gap Band (1977), which produced the band’s first chart hits “Out of the Blue (Can You Feel It)” and “Little Bit of Love”. However, it was their third album (also named The Gap Band) that brought them fame, with Ronnie serving as co-writer on half of its eight tracks.
Their first major label release, The Gap Band (1979) saw the band break the US R&B top 10 with “Shake”. It was also testament to Ronnie’s calibre as a multi-instrumentalist, contributing piano, keyboard, trumpet, backing vocals and flugelhorn to the album’s sound.
© Provided by The Independent Family affair: Ronnie (right) with brothers Robert (left) and Charlie in 1980 (Getty)
The band would continue to enjoy chart success throughout the late Seventies and early Eighties, with Ronnie providing the backbone of their soul-funk sound. This period also saw the band frequently sharing a stage with many household names, such as The Rolling Stones and Kool & the Gang.
However, the early Nineties would see Charlie, who had fronted the band throughout the brothers’ careers, leave to embark on a solo career. The band limped on without him for a series of largely forgettable albums, before closing the decade – and Ronnie’s own career – with Y2K: Funkin’ Till 2000 Comz.
Ronnie devoted much of his later years to music ministry in San Antonio. His brother Robert, the group’s bassist, died of a heart attack in 2010, aged 53. In 2015, relations between him and Charlie publicly turned sour when Ronnie launched a lawsuit against his brother for allegedly blocking a comeback tour arranged by Ronnie.
The musician died peacefully, with wife Linda Boulware-Wilson holding his hand, at his home in Tulsa. In a Facebook post announcing his death, she described her husband as “a genius with creating, producing, and playing the flugelhorn, trumpet, keyboards, and singing music, from childhood to his early seventies”.
Ronnie Wilson, multi-instrumentalist, born 7 April 1948, died 2 November 2021
Reference: In dependent: Casey Neate
Articles - Latest
- Sugar-loving microbes could help power future cars, study shows
- Bulgaria bus crash: At least 45 killed after vehicle catches fire on motorway
- Suspect who 'intentionally' drove into crowds at Christmas parade 'was fleeing domestic disturbance'
- Nasa spacecraft will crash into asteroid to test defence technology
- Astronomers discover fastest spinning white dwarf star
- Malcolm X's daughter Malikah Shabazz found dead in Brooklyn apartment
- Politicians arrive at cathedral for Amess' funeral
- Denise Bryer, actress who voiced Little Weed in The Flowerpot Men and was married to Nicholas Parsons – obituary
- Double child killer Colin Pitchford arrested after being released from prison
- Funeral home sued for $88m for burying wrong body in mother’s plot
- Astra reaches orbit for 1st time on test flight for US military
- Rapper Young Dolph killed during shopping trip in home town
- ‘Their music lit a fire in me’: hearing the voices of three neglected composers gave me my own
- Fashion’s own ‘black widow’: the true story of the house of Gucci murder
- Rugby player, 40, dies just nine days after his wedding
- Solar storm warning: Stream of charged particles set to lash Earth - impact time predicted
- 20 infamous cases of whitewashing
- Chile desert is littered with gigantic mountain of used clothes
- Ronnie Wilson: Musician who brought groove to many funk hits
- Canada floods: Emergency services rescue hundreds trapped in cars in British Columbia
- Best-selling author Wilbur Smith dies
- Russia responds after debris from explosion caused emergency at International Space Station
- Three people stung to death as storms in Egypt wash scorpions and snakes into the streets
Articles - Most Read
- Contact Us
- Cosmic Consciousness - What is Cosmic Consciousness-2
- Cosmic Consciousness-Introduction
- Cosmic Consciousness - Introduction-2
- Cosmic Consciousness First Words - 1V - 2
- The Human Condition-Thomas Keating
- Cosmic Consciousness - What is Cosmic Consciousness?
- Cosmic Consciousness First Words - V -
- Cosmic Consciousness V - 2
- Cosmic consciousness - First Words - IV
- Cosmic Consciousness-On the Plane of Self Consciousness
- Drinking From The Mountain Stream - Milarepa
- The Human Condition - 4
- Evolution and Devolution-Chapter 2
- The Human Condition - Thomas keating-3
- The Human Condition-2-Thomas Keating
- Evolution and Devolution-Chapter 1
- Cosmic Consciousness - 3 - On the Plane of Self Consciousness
- The Human Condition - 6
- Milarepa's World
- Web Links
- On the Plane of Self Consciousness - 2
- The Human Condition - 5
- Milarepa's World-2
- The Buddhist System of Liberation
- On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV
- On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV - 2
- Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - 2
- The Buddhist System of Liberation - 2
- Contemplation and the Divine Therapy
- JERRY RAWLINGS, GHANAIAN STRONG MAN WHO CAME TO POWER IN A COUP BUT INTRODUCED DEMOCRACY – OBITUARY
- Mass grave discovered in Japan with bodies buried in circular holes
- Shakyamuni Buddha or India the 1st “Black Revolutionary Hero.”