Charlie Wilson is the perfect, featured artist for a song about beating cancer. The R&B legend, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, has a miraculous story of defeating the disease. After overcoming radiation treatments, he made a rebound, resuming touring and delivering one of the most energetic stage shows.
But Wilson’s appearance on Lupe Fiasco’s new anti-cancer song “Mission” happened by coincidence. “Lupe called me wanting me to come do something,” Wilson tells Yahoo Music. “‘Mission’ wasn’t the song he called me for. We did some songs together and he played me this song. I said, ‘I’m a cancer survivor.”
Once Lupe realized Wilson’s history with the ailment, he insisted that he be added to the recording. On the final mix, Wilson is the first of many people who share their testimonials about the disease, and he also sings on the song’s outro.
Wilson is glad that Lupe is increasing cancer awareness among youth. On the song, Lupe raps about a child stricken with the disease. “Cancer really don’t care about how old or young you are,” Wilson says. “I’m just glad he is speaking to a younger generation.”
Wilson was diagnosed after a random checkup. He’s glad he took his wife’s advice: A couple weeks after taking a blood test, his doctor called him with the shocking news. It felt like another strike against the artist who lost everything when he walked away from a recording deal after selling millions of albums with the Gap Band, became homeless, and abused drugs.
“I had been fighting my whole career, trying to figure out how to get back to the top,” he says. “And here comes something else to kick me to the curb.”
After putting his music on hold to receive treatment, Wilson returned victorious, sharing his story with his fans, hoping to save lives. A fan that heard him encouraging men to go to their doctors to get checkups thanked him for his inspiration. “It was a time I was in Atlanta, Georgia, and I had been doing radio all that week, and this guy came in my dressing room and said, ‘Uncle Charlie, I heard you tell us to go get a check, and me, my brother, and 15 of my friends all went to the doctor to get our check ups, and we all had prostate cancer,'” Wilson recalls. He’s grateful he’s able to use his success stories to help others.
Wilson plans to discuss more of his experiences with cancer, and life from childhood to present in a still-untitled biography he is planning to release in January 2015. He is beginning to work on a solo album due out the following summer.
Despite tough times, Wilson says his optimistic attitude has helped him overcome. “The reason why I’m still here is because I have the passion to win,” he says. And he’s glad to be on a song with Lupe that has an equally, empowering message. “He made the song to be a triumphant song instead of being a sad one,” he says. “Uncle Charlie been counted out so many times and still I’m coming around and winning because I’m a fighter.”