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Ronnie Wilson, founding member of R&B group The Gap Band, has passed away. He was 73, reports the Associated Press.
“The love of my life was called home this morning,” Wilson’s wife Linda Boulware-Wilson wrote in a November 2 Facebook post confirming her death. “Ronnie Wilson was a genius in the creation, production and playing of bugle, trumpet, keyboards and sung music, from childhood to the early 1970s.”
Wilson formed The Gap Band in the early 1970s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his brothers Charlie and Robert Wilson. The name was inspired by three streets in their hometown – Greenwood, Archer, and Pine – that defined the “Black Wall Street” neighborhood destroyed in the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. The brothers grew up with a love of the music, raised by a music teacher mother and a preacher father. Ronnie would become an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, contributing keyboards, brass and percussion in addition to vocals on several of the group’s albums.
The Gap Band released their first album, Magicians Vacation, in 1974. But it was in the 1980s that the band’s distinctive electro-funk style came to define the increasingly synthesized R&B sound of the time. The group has produced a number of hit songs, including “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”, “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” and “Outstanding”.
The genre fusion sound of The Gap Band has continued to inspire countless artists in the generations that have followed. In addition to their songs sampled or covered by artists such as Ice Cube, Mary J. Blige and Ashanti, the group earned writing credits in 2015 on the “Uptown Funk” smash by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars after noticing similarities between the song and his. “Oops the back of your head.”
The band continued to write and perform after their breakthrough in the ’80s, and Charlie Wilson embarked on a solo career in the’ 90s. In 2010, Robert Wilson, the band’s bassist, died of a heart attack at 53. In his later years, Ronnie Wilson was involved in the music ministry at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, turning to religion after a long career in music. Addressing the publication My Saint-Antoine in 2011, church music and worship minister Ray Jones said, “They love to hear Ronnie sing.