Ronnie Wilson obituary | Pop and rock

Ronnie Wilson, who has died aged 73 following a stroke, was the oldest of the three brothers who shaped the Hole Band in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1967. A singer and multi-instrumentalist who performed keyboards, trumpet and flugelhorn, Wilson was integral to the ensemble, which loved a string of indelible funk-soul hits within the late Seventies and early 80s.

Among the many greatest liked of those had been Oops Upside Your Head, Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me), Early in the Morning, You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Outstanding and Party Train. Their songs had been distinguished by their frequent use of highly effective synthesiser basslines.

Wilson was additionally co-writer on songs together with Party Lights, Yearning for Your Love and Oops Up Facet Your Head. The final of those reached No 6 within the UK and 4 on the US R&B charts in 1979, and later earned Wilson and his brothers co-writing credit on Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s large worldwide hit Uptown Funk (2014), owing to the resemblance between the 2 tracks.

By 1982 the Hole Band was one of many biggest-selling R&B acts within the US, with the albums Hole Band III (1980) and Hole Band IV (1982) each attaining platinum standing. Their industrial profile dwindled because the 80s wore on, although, and All of my Love (1989), partly written by Ronnie, was the band’s final No 1 on the US R&B chart.

Ronnie was born in Tulsa, the eldest son of the Rev Oscar Wilson, a Pentecostal minister, and his spouse, Irma. Oscar preached on the Church of God and Christ in Tulsa, and the three boys – Ronnie, Charlie and Robert – sang there commonly as their father’s warm-up act. Ronnie recalled: “Dad would give us a type of well-known appears to be like, warning us that if we didn’t tear up the church home and have everyone shouting by the point he received as much as converse, we had been in for a whoppin’.”

Ronnie Wilson, left, and his brothers, Charlie and Robert, performing with the Gap Band at the 2005 BMI Urban music awards in Miami Beach, Florida, 2005.
Ronnie Wilson, left, and his brothers, Charlie and Robert, performing with the Hole Band on the 2005 BMI City music awards in Miami Seaside, Florida, 2005. {Photograph}: Luis M Alvarez/AP

Whereas their dad and mom would solely allow non secular music to be performed within the household residence, the brothers would smuggle in data by James Brown or Stevie Marvel and take heed to them secretly. Whereas in highschool, Ronnie and Charlie every began their very own band, however then merged the 2 collectively and introduced in Robert on bass. They initially known as themselves the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Avenue Band, deriving the title from streets within the Greenwood district.

This had been the positioning of the Tulsa race bloodbath in 1921, which left no less than 100 residents lifeless, each black and white. They shortened the title to the Hole Band when it proved too lengthy to suit on a live performance poster, and performed native venues such because the Gallery and the Worldwide Membership.

They took their first step in direction of wider recognition when an affiliate of the native musician Leon Russell noticed them on the Worldwide Membership and invited them to Russell’s recording studio. Russell, a profitable solo artist who had collaborated with Eric Clapton and George Harrison, recruited the Hole Band to play on his album Cease All That Jazz (1974), and in the identical yr they recorded their very own album, Magicians Vacation, on Russell’s label, Shelter.

This didn’t set the charts alight, as did the follow-up The Hole Band (1977), however the tide turned once they signed with the Los Angeles-based producer Lonnie Simmons’s Complete Expertise Productions. A take care of Mercury Data ensued, and their 1979 album, additionally known as The Hole Band, reached No 10 on the Billboard R&B chart, with Shake reaching 4 on the R&B singles chart.

Earlier than 1979 was out they’d launched The Hole Band II, which gave them one other hit with Oops Up Facet Your Head (on the album, the monitor was titled I Don’t Consider You Wish to Get Up and Dance (Oops!)). The Hole Band III delivered a cluster of hits together with Craving For Your Love, Humpin’ and Burn Rubber on Me. The album was an R&B chart-topper, and reached 16 on the mainstream album chart.

Even when the height of their success was over, the Hole Band’s music loved a wholesome afterlife by being sampled by innumerable artists together with Janet Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Public Enemy, Ice Dice and Mary J Blige.

The band dissolved after Robert died of a coronary heart assault in 2010. Charlie, who had overwhelmed drug and alcohol addictions, established a profitable solo profession. Ronnie, who endured his personal “$1,200-a-day cocaine behavior”, recalled how he sought assist from the next energy by serving within the music ministry of a church in San Antonio: “Should you be God, I would like you to take this drug behavior away from me – save me, and I’ll serve you.”

He’s survived by his spouse, Linda, and by Charlie.

Ronnie Wilson, musician and songwriter, born 7 April 1948; died 2 November 2021

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