The music world recently suffered a loss with the death of Robert Wilson, bassist and co-founder of the legendary funk group The Gap Band. Robert, along with brothers Charlie and Ronnie, formed the group in the early 1970s to, as Billboard's obituary phrased it, expand "upon the funk sound of George Clinton and Earth, Wind, and Fire." Robert's bass, along with Charlie's soulful lead vocals and Ronnie's keyboards, combined to produce gritty funk that held crossover appeal. Playing everything from ballads to dance-floor workouts, the Gap Band experienced success in the late '70s and the early-to-mid '80s with their distinctive sound.
Their earliest incarnation, the Greenwood, Archer, and Pine Streets Band, played throughout the Tulsa area. According to All Music, local advertisers felt the band's name was too long for posters, thus shortening it to the G.A.P. Band. After one advertisement listed them incorrectly as the Gap Band, the name stuck. By 1975 Charlie had moved to Los Angeles to further pursue a music career; he eventually convinced his brothers to join him there. Finally securing a recording deal, they achieved success first with the jazz-funk track "Shake," followed by their 1979 album The Gap Band II (actually their fourth album; they recorded two others on smaller labels, and The Gap Band met with little success), which spawned the Clintonesque single "I Don't Believe You Want to Get up and Dance (Oops!)." Best known for the unforgettable line, "Saying oops upside your head/Saying oops upside your head," the song featured Charlie's vocals, punctuated by his distinctive "hiccuping," which propelled the song to number four on the R&B singles chart. Another outstanding track, "Party Lights," with Robert's thumping bass and blaring horns, shows how heavily Earth, Wind, and Fire influenced their early compositions.
The Gap Band's next album, 1980's Gap Band III (yes, in reality their fifth album), showed funk fans that the band was no flash in the pan. The single "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" sounded like no other soul single at the time. Just listen to Robert's pulsing bass line, Charlie's growling voice, and Ronnie's slightly distorted keyboards—all of these elements add up to classic dirty funk, but with a danceable beat. "Yearning for Your Love" proved they could perform tender love songs as well as floor burners, with the breezy beat and laid-back vocals slightly reminiscent of such EWF classics as "You Can't Hide Love" or "That's the Way of the World." "Sweet Caroline" (not to be confused with the Neil Diamond tune) shows off their jazzy side, with a swaying beat and horn accents. Prince must have been listening to "Gash Gash Gash," as Ronnie's keyboard lines predict many funky tunes off his 1999 album. Overall, Gap Band III remains a solid effort containing no inferior songs.