‘Word Up’ about the man in the Phantom Mask Charlie Singleton

Charlie Singleton performs at the Atlanta City Winery


Life sometimes masks what’s ahead, and sometimes we put on a figurative mask to hide ourselves. However, not many people go through life literally wearing a mask such as Charlie Singleton of the popular music group Cameo. A phenomenal and creative member of that group has been a force behind some popular and hit-making songs that now have become a part of the American legends of soul and funk music.

With roots from Louisiana, the guitarist, singer and keyboard player lived in New York for some time before joining cameo in 1981, the time of their transitional sound and style. No pun intended, he was instrumental in the groups hits starting with “Word Up.” As he tells it, this particular song started out on the “Alligator Woman” album, gradually evolving from punk-rock influences, and reaching into the influence of the single “Single Life.” An all too familiar scenario was radio not feeling “Word Up” when released but it took off into gold-record territory despite the resistance. Around 1985, he went solo with his own group Modern Man. Since then, Charlie has become, and still is, a sought after studio musician. He’s recorded with various artists ranging from Chaka Kahn, Will Smith, Tupac, Mariah Carey, Charlie Wilson, Kiara, Snoop Dogg, The Whispers, Kenny Latimore, Mikey Craig, Jermaine Dupri and many more, and has also worked on music for film and television.

Charlie’s music history is rich with influences that stemmed from his choice of instruments. Starting with the piano at an early age, he did play the French horn before channeling his energies and creative juices into the guitar. With aspirations of playing classical music and a French horn scholarship in college, he thinks playing the guitar is fun. He remembers one of his memorable performances when starting out in a jazz quartet in college he opened up for Donnie Hathaway. But it’s the mask that sets him apart after doing the solo act for years, and he’s alright with that. For him, it’s about branding and views this persona as a gothic superhero, like a chameleon. On being remembered he believes “everybody wants to be remembered but it should be for your body of work, how you lived your life, and respected as an artist.”

What motivates him is not as complicated as he seems. At the base are his kids and his life. When he wakes up in the morning he knows his happiness depends solely on himself, and how he conducts himself in whatever he’s going thru. As for his fans and the message; he has said it all musically, he still loves what he does, does it for himself and it’s not about the money. “The key is finding something you love to do, then figure out how to make money from it or make a living.”

  • Joseph Walker, III


Check out Charlie Singleton on Instagram @SINGLETONCHARLIE




The Phantom menace


Cameo Guitarist Charlie Singleton
The Phantom Charlie Singleton shows Tall Boy how to play the guitar
Charlie Singleton performing for his fans
The Phantom strikes again
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