Known for their R&B and funk music, The Gap Band was a band put together by three brothers. Charlie Wilson, Ronnie Wilson, and Robert Wilson. Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the band’s name came from the trio’s homage to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre where an angry mob of white supremacists terrorized the city’s black community, which was located in the Greenwood District. The streets of Greenwood, Archer, and Pine, as an acronym, formed G.A.P., which served as the inspiration behind the band’s name when they started up in 1967. For approximately seven years, they performed with a number of other musicians before receiving their first big opportunity in 1974 when they signed up with Shelter Records.
The discography of The Gap Band features fifteen studio albums, thirteen compilation albums, two live albums, and a total of thirty-nine singles. Twenty-three of those singles became top forty hits on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. From 1967 until 2010, the three brothers enjoyed a successful career as one of the most influential groups performing in the funk and R&B genres. During the 1970s and the 1980s, The Gap Band were at their peak. They retired in 2010, the same year Robert Wilson passed away. In 2021, Ronnie’s passing resulted in Charlie now becoming the only surviving brother left.
Top 10 Songs by the Gap Band
#10 – Going in Circles
Rich with harmonics and piano, the beautifully performed “Going in Circles” featured The Gap Band at their best as artists who know how to put forth truly soulful music that defined the best parts of what made R&B, as a genre, so popular to begin with. This song was originally performed by The Friends of Distinction in 1969 and it served as a hit for them as it charted at number fifteen on the US Billboard 100. For The Gap Band, its 1985 release peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1986.
#9 – Humpin’
In 1981, The Gap Band III‘ album brought forth the single, “Humpin’,” which charted at number nineteen on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs, as well as serving as a certain dance style the fans performed in response to the instructions laid out by Charlie Wilson within the song’s lyrics. On the UK Singles Chart, Humpin’ peaked at number thirty-six and appeared at number sixty on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
#8 – Yearning for Your Love
The Gap Band III was the fourth studio album the group released, which was in 1979. The single, “Yearning for Your Love,” was the third track to appear on the US Billboard charts. It peaked at number five on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and at number sixty on the Hot 100. On the UK Singles Chart, it appeared at number forty-seven. The sway of this song served as one of the best rhythmic performances the Wilson brothers ever produced throughout their career as recording artists. Sultry with swing, Yearning for Your Love was among the favorites played at disco clubs as an ideal break song performed between the faster-paced hits that would spark up the dance floor. This song also served as one of the most influential pieces that sparked adult contemporary music to blossom throughout the 1980s, both in mainstream and cultural-specific Billboard genres.
#7 – Oops Up Side Your Head
In 1979, The Gap Band released the single, “Oops Up Side Your Head,” which came from the group’s fourth studio album, The Gap Band III. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked at number four. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number six, which would be the first time The Gap Band would have music showing up on its official hit music list. The US Billboard Dance Club Songs charted the song at number fifty-two. Starting off strictly with vocals, the encouragement for listeners to get into the song with handclapping and toe-tapping served as an easy-listening sway into a rather comedic mix of funk and R&B.
#6 – You Dropped a Bomb on Me
Powerful and synth-heavy, 1982’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by The Gap Band came from the group’s sixth album, The Gap Band IV. This funky, fast-paced single charted as high as number two on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, at number thirty-one on the US Billboard Hot 100, and at number thirty-nine on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. This song’s popularity became part of a 2017 Walmart Christmas-themed commercial, as well as a feature in the 2004 video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It’s also played frequently at various sporting events, often at well-timed moments to add dramatic impact during key plays that would see home runs at baseball games and slam dunks in basketball.
#5 – All of My Love
“All of My Love” came from The Gap Band’s 1989 album, Round Trip. It would be the first time in seven years the Wilson brothers would realize a number one hit in seven years, at least on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It also charted at number eighty-eight on the UK Singles Chart. The sound of the eighties was at its trademark best with the blend of a rather celebratory R&B song that was cheerful enough to get into its swing, yet easy-listening enough to sway to its groove.
#4 – Party Train
Although “Party Train” only appeared on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and at number three, this hugely popular hit has received the most amount of music video views by the fans. Despite not appearing on any official dance charts, this song was a party favorite. Among the clubs that cater to the retro dance and disco scene, Party Train is still fondly listened to, as well as danced to. When the whistle of the train officially starts the song off, it served as a trigger for the fans to get on board and enjoy one of the most beloved hits the Wilson brothers ever produced. Party Train was the first of five singles from the group’s seventh studio album, Gap Band V: Jammin’.
#3 – Outstanding
In 1982, “Outstanding” was the fourth single released from The Gap Band IV album, which was their sixth studio recording. Rich with R&B influence, which seemed to serve as an inspirational trigger for a number of future artists that brought the new jack swing vocals to the music scene as its own specialized genre. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked at number one while on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart at number twenty-four. Outstanding also charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number fifty-eight.
#2 – Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)
The Gap Band III was the group’s fifth studio album, which brought forth the hit single, “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) in 1980. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked at number one, and on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart at number nineteen. The US Billboard Hot 100 charted the song at number eighty-four and on the UK Singles Chat it climbed up to twenty-two. Before breaking into song, the sound of burning rubber tires served as an intro leading into Charlie’s vocal delivery of the protagonist being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Although The Gap Band is best known for its combination of funk and R&B music, their music was among the favorites to listen to and dance to during a time where disco music was at its peak.
#1 – Early in the Morning
Released in 1982, “Early in the Morning” was The Gap Band’s best-charting hit on the Billboard charts, which was the lead single from the group’s sixth studio album, The Gap Band IV. On the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked at number one. On the US Billboard Dance Songs chart, it was at number thirteen, and on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number twenty-four. Early in the Morning also appeared on the official UK Singles Chart at number fifty-five. This piano-rich single featured the brothers at their best as they combined their signature funk style with a hint of R&B. The combined vocal talents of Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert have often been on the receiving end of appreciation by a number of artists who were inspired by their music, including this single, to use samples of their songs in their own material.
The Gap Band Songs Ranked article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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