The Ancestors Summon “The Godfather of the Bass Guitar,” Robert Wilson of The Gap Band, 53
And my favorite, “Yearning for Your Love.”
It was quite a shock. Robert Wilson was only 53, a baby brother. He was about to embark on a far-ranging tour across the country, when he was stricken on August 15. He was in good spirits and having good times.
The “Godfather of Bass Guitar,” Robert Wilson of the legendary Tulsa jazz and funk group the Gap Band, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 53, confirmed his publicist and manager, Don Jackson, in a late-night Sunday phone call to the Tulsa World.
Wilson died from a massive heart attack in his home, Jackson said. His family became concerned about him when they didn’t receive their regular phone calls from him throughout the day. A family friend found Wilson’s body on Sunday afternoon in Palmdale, Calif.
Funeral and memorial details will be shared as they become available, confirmed his publicist and his wife, Brenda Wilson, in a Monday morning phone call to the Tulsa World.
In a Tulsa World phone interview last week – Robert Wilson’s last public interview – Wilson expressed joy about returning to his boyhood home of Tulsa and an upcoming festival headlining show and following tour.
Wilson is survived by wife Brenda and two daughters, Robin and La’Tina Wilson, and a son, Dejuan Rice (and longtime friend Geraldine Robinson Wilson). He is the son of a preacher and brother to Charlie and Ronnie, and was raised in Tulsa. The three brothers started the funk band The Gap Band in the 1970s, which was discovered by Tulsa Sound music icon Leon Russell.
Yes, that Leon Russell, who discovered The Gap Band in 1973.
Robert was the youngest of three sons of a Tulsa, OK bishop, O.W. Wilson and wife Irma Wilson, and he was the youngest brother to Charlie and Ronnie Wilson. They were all raised in Tulsa. From an early age, Robert and his brothers became musicians in the black church, backing up the preacher and the choir in local churches. Robert began playing drums and wound up playing bass guitar.
Wilson maintained in one interview that he was already famous at 14, joining Russell’s tour, and backing him up on one album, Stop All That Jazz. Their first album that he produced, Magician’s Holiday, bombed, but Russell had given them their start in the business. Bishop Wilson and his wife, it appeared, fully supported their children in their musical endeavors, and Russell was periodically invited to share catfish frys with them.
[..B]efore age 20, Robert Wilson had played bass with some of the biggest names in music, including Eric Clapton and Billy Preston. His playing style influenced many, from Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller to R. Kelly, Keith Sweat, Ruff Endz, Guy and Aaron Hall. The Roots member ?uestlove (aka Ahmir Thompson) said on his Twitter social networking site: “My God … The youngest ‘Gap’ brother Robert Wilson passed away. He will be missed.”
His daughter wept when asked about her father’s legacies – family and music.
“I’m daddy’s little girl. What do you say when you lose the one person you really love?” said La’Tina Wilson, 28, during a phone call from Illinois on Monday. They still spoke to each other nearly every day, she said. She also named a son after him, who will be 10 months old this week.
She also admired her father as a musician. “He wasn’t a frontman, but when he picked up that bass, he was front and center and fully funkified. He stroked every note with as much love as he had for any of us.”
Black Voices reports that the album completed by Wilson was co-produced by NBA star Wayman Tisdale, who died of cancer last year. It is scheduled to be released this fall.
The festival where Wilson was first scheduled to perform was the Timeless Music Festival in Tulsa, Okla., on Aug. 28. The sudden death of one of its headliners two weeks before his performance may turn the festival or his set into a memorial concert in his name.