Robert Wilson, bassist for The Gap Band, passed on August 15 at the age of 53. The cause was a heart attack.
Robert Wilson was born in 1957 on Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1967 brothers Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson formed the first incarnation of The Gap Band, under the name The Greenwood, Archer, and Pine Street Band, in 1967. It was in 1973 that the band shortened its name to The Gap Band, so it would stand out better on posters for gigs. Discovered by Tulsa recording legend Leon Russell, The Gap Band released their first album, Magician's Holiday, in 1974. They released their second album, The Gap Band, in 1977. Neither album did well, perhaps because the band's funk sound was out of fashion at the time.They were later introduced to producer Lonnie Simmons, who signed them to his Total Experience Records. In 1979 they released their first album with Lonnie Simmons, also titled The Gap Band. This album actually did well and they had a Top 10 R&B hit with "Shake."
Later in 1979 The Gap Band released the album The Gap Band II. The album veered more towards the sound of that of Parliament-Funkadelic. It went gold and the song "Steppin' (Out)" hit the top 10 on the R&B chart. It would be in 1980 that The Gap Band hit the big time. Their album Gap Band III hit #16 on the Billboard albums chart. From the album they had a top five R&B song, "Yearning for Your Love." Their biggest success would come with Gap Band IV. Released in 1982, Gap Band IV went to #14 on the Billboard albums chart. It produced two hit singles, "Early in the Morning" and, what is widely regarded as The Gap Band's signature song, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me."
Unfortunately, Gap Band V: Jammin', released in 1983, did not do quite as well, but it produced a hit single in the form of "Party Train." Gap Band VI, released in 1985, did not do as well as Gap Band V: Jammin'. For the rest of the Eighties and into the Nineties, The Gap Band recorded four studio albums and two live albums.
As bassist of The Gap Band, Robert Wilson was central to the band's success, providing the underlying bass riffs to all of their songs. Indeed, it was a mark of his skill as a bassist that he was called "the Godfather of Bass Guitar." What is all the more remarkable is that he achieved such skill while very young, recording professionally when he was only 14. Before he had turned 20 he had already played bass with both Billy Preston and Eric Clapton. Mr. Wilson belonged to one of the greatest funk bands of all time, and he was easily the greatest bassist in the entire genre of funk.