The news that Gap Band bass player Robert Wilson passed away last weekend, though sad, brought back some sweet memories.
Back in the early ’80s, we more often saw good new music on MTV before hearing it on the radio in our corner of Wisconsin — if we heard it on the radio at all. That’s how we got into the Gap Band.
In their videos, lead singer Charlie Wilson had an engaging presence, seemingly the kind of guy the fellas wanted to hang with and the ladies wanted to get with. His brothers Robert and Ronnie were his sidekicks on MTV, as they were on stage.
The music was fun. It was solid, if not entirely original. Listen to their hits, as I did again this week, and you hear a nick of P-Funk here, a nick of Orleans there. Still, listening to the Gap Band isn’t the same as seeing them, and seeing them again is what summoned those sweet memories.
“Party Train,” anyone?
I could watch that over and over. Actually, I did, back then.
The best thing I read about Robert Wilson was written by Steven Ivory for EURweb. (Go read it. You might be surprised to learn who hired these brothers from Tulsa to be his backing band.)
Ivory cites a less-often-heard Gap Band tune as proof of Robert’s considerable skills. I gave it a listen, and he’s right. On the biggest hits, particularly “Party Train” and “You Dropped A Bomb On Me,” it’s not always clear where the bass ends and the synths begin.
But not on this one. Take it away, Robert …
“Shake,” the Gap Band, from “The Gap Band,” 1979. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.
As Ivory notes, “Shake” borrows from Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1978 cover of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”
And you were wondering how the Gap Band borrowed from Orleans?
“Stay With Me,” the Gap Band, from “Gap Band IV,” 1983. From left, that’s Ronnie, Charlie and Robert Wilson.