Charlie Wilson on Crippling Back Issues and Why 'There Are Going to Be a Lot of Babies Made' on His Tour

charlie wilson 2015
Kwaku Alston

Charlie Wilson is a survivor. His five-decade career has endured substance abuse, cancer and the 2010 breakup of his legendary Gap Band. Through it all, the singer, 62, has released seven solo LPs and become a go-to collaborator for Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. His latest challenge? Recovering from crippling back issues and surgery, then shaping up for a 28-show tour with fellow soul men Kem and Joe that launched Feb. 12 in support of Forever Charlie, which bowed at No. 2 on the Feb. 14 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

The Setback: "I was still doing concerts even though I was having serious back problems. When I performed at Steve Harvey's 2013 Neighborhood Awards, I did the show from a chair because my legs wouldn't allow me to stand up. When I returned to Los Angeles, I went straight from the airport to see a doctor. Turns out I had a herniated disk from jumping around onstage. I didn't know I had hurt myself that bad. I'd always said I'd never let anyone cut me -- but that doctor had me walking the next day."

Charlie Wilson Talks New Uptempo Album & Recording With Kanye West

The Diet: "I quit carbs for 30 days and just ate fish, chicken and salads to take down the swelling I'd acquired laying up after my operation. I went from surgery into Thanksgiving and Christmas with all those pies, cakes. It took a long time to get that thickness off of me. I needed to start at the table first -- pushing back from it."

KANYE WEST ft CHARLIE WILSON " Bound 2 " Live... by UnderProject

The Workout: "We're putting cardio in high gear. Between practicing new songs, my wife, Mahin, and I have been jogging and walking three-and-a-half miles a day, five days a week, to help me to get back into the swing of things. If I can get 90 minutes in with jogging and walking, then I know I can do my show, especially those up-tempo paces."

Charlie Wilson on the GRAMMYs Red Carpet

The Payoff: "There are going to be a lot of babies made from this tour. I was in South Carolina recently, and this lady threw her panties at me, ran onstage and grabbed me. She was pantiless and hugging on me. I told the guards not to hurt her. But, boy, she was crying and squeezing so tight I could feel her body shaking. So I had to sing most of the song while she was holding me. We let her do that until I felt her release the pressure a bit. Then the guards pulled her away from me. That's the first time in a long, long time I'd had panties thrown at me. I didn't think that would ever happen again!"

An edited version of this story originally appeared in the March 14 issue of Billboard.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.