Soul Music Legend Charles Wright Pens A Powerful Autobiography

by Raheem Karim
charles wright

Soul music legend Charles Wright pens a powerful autobiography about his life growing up as share cropper. The singer/songwriter/guitarist best known for singing and composing ’70s soul smash “Express Yourself” still heard daily on radio, in movies and dozens of television commercials. You may recognize song being sampled in N.W.A’s song “Express Yourself”. The multi-talented messenger has taken up his pen to complete the first in a planned series of autobiographies that detail his profound life story as a southern Black man that miraculously brought himself from the bottom of poverty to the American dream of prosperity. The inaugural installment is “Up From Where We’ve Come,” an up-close and intimate telling of the Wright family’s profound struggles as sharecroppers near Clarksdale, Mississippi through the 1940s, it’s a riveting insider’s glimpse into the realities of the times.

“Do we truly know the full extent of our history?” Write challenges. “I’m willing to bet that most of us do not have the slightest idea. Up From Where We’ve Come is the history of me as a child growing up in the cotton fields of Mississippi at a time few, except people such as myself, remember. It’s an intimate slice of America’s history.”

The reader will meet Wright’s family struggling to make ends meet in the deep South. His father, loving mother, his young brothers, sisters and cousins, and two different White land owners that overworked and underpaid them all. But this is the nature of what share croppers endured. Charles Wright leaned on music to escape the horrors of this new form of slavery.

“I wanted to reveal just how thin the line between sharecropping and slavery really was. It’s important to me because I spent a significant part of my life under that regime. I started writing this book 40 years ago. It’s something – given the right circumstance – I wish I could have shared long ago…But now is the optimal time because discrimination never went away. Racism simply vaulted to a whole ’nother level. Honestly, in some cases, I’d take the way it used to be over what it is today. The process of systematic racial elimination is extremely ugly to me. I can see it so clearly. I need others to see it, too. So I’m expressing myself.”

Charles Wright is a world-renowned musician and songwriter best known as the leader of the ’60s-founded Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and for recording the enduring 1971 classic “Express Yourself ” (#3 R&B, #12 Pop – Billboard). The ensemble also recorded the classics “Loveland ” (sung by drummer James Gadson who became an ace session musician in Los Angeles), “Do Your Thing ” (featuring lead guitarist Al McKay who went on to become a star member of Earth Wind & Fire) and the racial equality anthem “Comment” (also recorded by jazz legend Les McCann, alternative rockers Wilco and others). The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band also worked closely with Bill Cosby in its infancy as his backup band for a music album (Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings – 1967) leading to The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band becoming the first R&B act to succeed on Warner Brothers Records with its self-titled debut LP the same year.

Wright still records Doo Wop, Blues, Soul, Pop and Funk music – now on his own label, A Million $ Worth of Memories Records. His latest CD is Let’s Make Love Tonight. He also has a forthcoming CD, tentatively titled Be Careful What You Wish For, featuring the already released first single, “Lookin’ For An Ugly Woman! ” His company slogan: “True Soul Music Made By Human Beings, Not By Machines.” Also among his new recordings is a remix of “Express Yourself,” this time tied-in with a cell phone app. Charles Wright has come a long way.

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