It is with deep sadness, and a great deal of pain that I announce the loss of the Love of My Life, Louis W. Wilson – of the amazing music group Mandrill – has passed. He was 71 years young; vibrant, handsome, full of energy and the love for life and his family.
My man, my soulmate, my heart of hearts, is gone! If you think this is a routine announcement, it’s not! This is a cry of pain. I am deeply wounded that I will no longer enjoy those wonderful 3:00AM phone calls from my Honey on the Left Coast.
|LOU WILSON: OCTOBER 25, 1941-JANUARY 7, 2013|
I will miss hearing him sing new songs concocted on the Fender Rhodes I bought him one year for his birthday, when we first got together – forty years ago! Or him playing his congas in the back yard at all hours of the morning.
He was deeply loved by me – as well as our children, Kira, Rais, Adiya, Victor; his brothers Ric, Carlos, and Wilfredo “Wolf” Wilson – his seven (7) grandkids who won’t get a chance to know him; as well as a world of fans and friends who also feel the loss of this great Black man.
Lou’s energy, love, musical talent, and a prodigious body of work, which he shared freely with all, will long be loved and remembered as a testament to the beauty of this wonderful Tall, Dark & Chocolate Brother, whom I love so dearly.
There is a great deal of pain and sorrow in my family rightnow. It’s as if a giant hand literally swooped down and snatched him from among us, and we were powerless to do anything to stop it! As we try to understand how we will cope with this major hit to our center/source, I will selfishly say no one feels it the way I feel it – like someone twisting a giant knife in my heart.
Sorry to be so graphic – I tried to be spiritual about this – I tried to imagine him in a better place; living a better life; but right now the only thing I really feel is that I need him here with me. WE need him herewith us. Selfish though that may sound; if there was ever a time for any of those miraculous resuscitations, this would be the time.
I doubt that I will be happy or philosophical or spiritual about this for a long time to come. I have lost a major part of my soul, my heart, my being-ness – and it hurts.
Lou, and his brothers Ricardo, Carlos and Wilfredo (Wolf) Wilson founded the group Mandrill, together , in 1970, in Brooklyn, NY. If any place is home for this elite group of musicians, vocalists, performers, philosophers, brothers, it was Brooklyn, New York!! And nobody loved Brooklyn the way Lou Wilson did.
He would often call me when I was walking or on the bus in Brooklyn, ask me where I was, and then proceed to describe the area, or tell me of some cherished memory of his boyhood. He was raised on Marcy Avenue between Willoughby and Hart, just a stone’s throw from what was then the “GG” Local Train.
|L-R: Lou, Carlos, Ric and Wilfredo Wilson: MANDRILL, 2011 AFTER CONCERT AT B.B. KINGS NEW YORK|
Lou was born on the Panama Canal, in Colon, Panama, on October 25, 1941. He was the first born son of Doris and Wilfred Wilson. He was later followed by his brother Ricardo, Carlos, Wilfredo, and by a much younger brother, Alonzo (deceased). To them all, Lou was the happy-go-lucky big brother who loved to laugh, joke, have fun, and write, and pull pranks.
When he came to the US, at the age of 12, having crossed over on an ocean liner with his parents and younger brother Ric, he had had the opportunity of seeing different cultures at different ports of call. But he always remembers having suffered the culture shock he initially experienced in Brooklyn, NY. From the language – he spoke with a decided “West Indian” dialect, which got a lot of laughs in his classroom; and he didn’t initially understand some of the slang the kids were using in his new neighborhood. It left him with classroom performance anxiety, resulting in a slight speech impediment, which he overcame by singing.
Talk about an adjustment! His thick West Indian accent against that of Brooklynese – by the time he had graduated from the famed Boys High School, he had mastered that and so much more – he could go in and out of dialect, speak fluent Spanish, and do weird voice over characterizations as well.
He wrote his own original music, lyrics, concepts, drawing heavily on all he heard, saw and learned in his formative years, from a multi-cultural community, where people from all over the world came to live and work – the Panama Canal. Brooklyn, to Lou, was very much like the Panamanian community he once knew – there were people from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, St. Croix, St. Lucia – in different dialects, with different cultural flavors – Brooklyn, indeed was and is the mecca for Caribbean and Central Americans who likewise came to give their families better lives. Lou soaked it all up, and turned it out as music.Lou was later joined by his other two brother, Wilfredo and Carlos. His mother had her own beauty shop on the ground level, while they lived on the floors above. Moms was the entrepreneurial spirit of the family, provided services (as well as any and all community news) to the ladies of the neighborhood.
Before forming Mandrill, Lou had several attempts at other occupations, including making dental devices, working with psychologically challenged individuals, driving taxis, but his heart was being drawn to the music.There are many former neighbors and friends, including Brother JiTu Weusi, who remembers Lou in those early days, when it looked as if he would just be a starving artist, and Mandrill would just be a good local band – playing in such local clubs as the Blue Coronet, among other places. But he – and the group – was destined for greater things.Lou’s lyrics were always uplifting, spiritual, hopeful, encouraging, melodic. They stayed in your mind so that you found yourself humming, snapping your fingers, or dancing along. I never knew what was going to capture his imagination and start him weaving a song – it could have been something as simple as a click, or a bell; or a rhyme – and there he would be, composing some new, wonderful song. He always had a hook, a refrain to fall back into to give the song a catchiness, make it memorable. When the creative wheels were turning, you had two choices – stand back and look on in admiration; or attempt to join in and be part of the process.
When the group got their first contract with Polydor Records, and their career took off, it was further validation for Lou that he was on the road to making his dreams come true. It was not so much whether or not he got Grammies or Gold Records, it was the pure joy of creating the music itself, it was the joy of the camaraderie with his brothers, the interaction with the audience, the pure adrenalin rush he received from performing, that he absolutely loved.Quiet as it was kept, Lou was a natural born educator, and always wanted to impart new information to his audience. He was the same way with our children, Rais, Adiya, Kira – as well as any child he would come in contact with. He always tried to take time to explain things to them, to get them to walk away with a new understanding or skill. He was known for holding marathon conversations with them, where they would spend as much as 5 hours at a time on the phone, talking about everything from soup to nuts, and points in between. So much love was shared on the line in the wee hours of the morning. Conversations we will truly miss.Lou’s fans would shake their heads in wonder at the amount of energy he displayed on the stage, which he did up until the end of his life. He loved the fact that he and his four brothers,without any additional assist, collectively played 45 instrument among them, as well as doing their own vocals, from four part harmony to a`capella.
Mandrill, the group has grown exponentially since the early days, and was a veritable explosion of music on the stage. I mean real music – because these are each consummate musicians in their own right. You might say they are musicologist because they have it down to a science.And Lou was a perfectionist when it came to his music. If you sat in a rehearsal with him, you might hear such comments as “That’s an E to the flatted fifth….” While to you and I, whatever he played sounds wonderful, he listened with the ears of a trained musician that would put most symphony orchestras to shame. In fact, Mandrill was the first rock group to play Carnegie Hall in the early 70’s – packed the house and turned it out!! It was of Lou’s proudest moments.Lou was the composer behind most of the music that made Mandrill famous: “Fence Walk,” “Mango Meat,” “Land of the Golden Baboon,” “House of Wood,” “Git It All (Shake Some Boody),” “Polk Street Carnival,” among others.
He was proud to have been joined on stage by our son, Rais Wilson – Spoken Word artist, a/k/a the One Sun Lion Ra (whose been making a name in his own right) – who frequently joined the group on tour. Lou delighted in the fact that Rais was blazing his own path in the industry as well. He was extremely proud of my daughter Kira whom he helped raise from the age of 5; and exceptionally proud of his first born son, Victor- who, was chocolate brown and tall, like his dad. Like Rais, who stands at 6′ 3″, Victor at 6’5″ inherited Lou’s height, charm, with, smile and good looks.
But Lou absolutely delighted in our daughter, Adiya Soignee Idane Wilson – our “baby chile.” It was because of Adiya that I discovered that Lou had dimples hidden under his beard; she also inherited his sunny brown eyes, his wit, a great deal of his wisdom and disdain for conformity. Both Scorpios – born within 5 days of each other’s birth dates – Adiya and Lou could talk til the cows came home. When they toured the East Coast, she would take off from work to help him with his wardrobe, greet fans, and distribute Mandrill T-Shirts. If any daughter ever had her dad wrapped around her pinky finger, Adiya was the one. Adiya was the softer side of her father, with the stature and grace that befitted his princess.
Music and Mandrill took Lou to such wonderful places as Morocco, Venezuela, all over Europe. They loved the music of Mandrill as much as we did here in the US. Fans in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe know every lyric of every song they ever sang, and sing along with them. Fans in Montreaux are still talking about it. Devotees would bring their own tambourines, cow bells and other instruments, or just drum on the table while the group is on stage jamming. They couldn’t help it! Lou was known for having a jam session after the show with wannabe musicians, that would last almost as long as the show itself.
He loved his music. He loved life. He loved us. We loved him. I love him. I’m trying to make this universal, but it keeps coming back to the fact that the man that I have known and loved will sing no more. But later in his life, Lou had now discovered another love – Golf! He had begun working on the concept of a Senior Musician Golf Tournament. It became his biggest joy and passion, right up there with him music. He was known for traveling with his congas and his golf clubs. The clubs were custom made for his 6’4 height. He was more legs than anything else (I used to call him “High Pockets”) so the clubs had to have a specific length for him to make an appropriate swing.
I guess I’m kind of rambling here. I’ve written a lot of articles about friends and celebrities I have known, who have gone on to the ancestors. But it’s the first time that I’ve ever lost the love of my life; and I’m finding the process very hard indeed. But I do want to thank my best friend Annie Gee in Philly, who first pointed out the fine Black man with “the butterfly on his fly,” and introduced me to the music of Mandrill in the 70’s. Had it not been for her, Lou and I probably would never have met.
I want to offer my love and condolences and gratitude to Lou’s brothers: Ric, Carlos, and Wilfredo, for being there for him and for me. My love and condolences to our children – Kira, Rais, Adiya, Victor, and to our grand kids. For his niece, Kadisha, Carlos’ daughter, whom he also loved dearly. His great friend, Sir Shadow, the fabulous line drawing artist and his buddy McGee, whom he loved like brothers. And my sincere condolences to music lovers of the world that will no longer have the pleasure of seeing this great man in person, and feel the warmth of his energy and personality.
LOU WILSON THE LOVE OF MY LIFE
I thank his Mom, Doris and his Dad, Wilfred Wilson for having given him life, love and guidance. I can just see him up there with them and his grandmother Evadne, who lived to be 104. And of course, I can see him kicking it with his best friend, Gil Scott Heron, laughing, joking and having a great time.
Shortly before his passing, Lou and the guys did a Christmas song – the first ever for the group – entitled Sunny The Snowman. It was the last piece he ever did. He had been working on the animation, hoping to get it ready in time for the 2012 Christmas season. He was so proud of this piece, as well as the piece they did in tribute to President Barack Obama upon winning the nomination of the Democratic Party for President in 2008.
Lou wrote this a song children every where, but especially for his grandchildren – enjoy it in his memory; it was the last song he ever wrote, and his last live performance. I f you cannot download it from here, you can download it on youtube. GDW
“HAPPY HOLIDAYS from MANDRILL.Please CLICK & PLAY or DOWNLOAD our new video, “SUNNY THE SNOWMAN,” as a GIFT to YOU. Feel free to SHARE THIS GIFT with friends & family. The WILSON BROTHERS–Lou, Ric, Carlos & Wolf–wish you PEACE & LOVE and NEW BEGINNINGS this Holiday Season.” Download from source: VIDEO2MP3
Lou is already resting in peace, somehow we all kind of know that. He’s smiling down on us as we try to adjust to his not being here among us. It’s going to take a long time for us to accept his absence, though. So, at this time, I will wish for myself and the rest of the family who will miss him greatly, Peace and Love.