Ronnie Wilson, cofounder of the R&B group the Gap Band, died yesterday at the age of 73.
The news was confirmed by his wife, Linda Boulware-Wilson, in a Facebook post. “The love of my life was called home this morning, at 10:01AM,” she wrote.
“Ronnie Wilson was a genius with creating, producing and playing the flugelhorn, trumpet, keyboards and singing music, from childhood to his early 70s. He will be truly missed.” In a statement to TMZ, Boulware-Wilson said her husband suffered a stroke last week and had not recovered.
Wilson formed the Gap Band in Tulsa with his two brothers, Charlie and Robert. (The band name was a nod to Greenwood, Archer and Pine streets in the Black neighborhood destroyed by white supremacists during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, an area the Wilson brothers grew up near.) In their early days, the group served as the backing band for fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell, who offered them use of his studio to record their debut album, 1974’s Magician’s Holiday, which was followed by a self-titled album in 1977.
Breakthrough success arrived several years later after the band teamed with record producer Lonnie Simmons and signed with Mercury Records. Their third LP, another self-titled record, released in 1979, yielded their first top 10 single, “Shake.” A year later, the band’s next album, The Gap Band II, achieved gold status and featured the hit single “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Up Side Your Head),” which reached at No. 4 on the Billboard R&B chart. (Producer Mark Ronson sampled the song for his 2014 collaboration with Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk.”)
The success continued with The Gap Band III, which went to No. 1 R&B and No. 16 on the Billboard 200, and included three more top 10 singles: “Yearning for Your Love,” “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” and “Humpin.” Two years later, The Gap Band IV also landed at No. 1.
Watch the Gap Band’s ‘You Dropped a Bomb on Me’ Video
Earlier this year, Dave Grohl cited the Gap Band’s classic “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” as the inspiration for his drum intro on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The band continued to release albums throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
The Gap Band’s music has been sampled or covered by a wide range of R&B artists over the years, including Tyler, the Creator, Mary J. Blige, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Tina Turner.
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.