During this holiday season, please keep Madison soul singer and musical legend Charlie Brooks in your mind. The legendary entertainer has been having some serious health problems and a group of people led by Dr. Charles Taylor are trying to raise funds to help him get the medical attention he deserves.
“Charlie and I go way back — 30 years…. Music has always been his passion and his life,” Taylor tells The Madison Times in an interview at his home on Madison's east side. “We've had a friendship over a long period of time. I think he's a local treasure. He has a wide range of experiences and he's been all over the world. He's one of those folks where many people in the community don't even know he's here and they are certainly unaware of the many contributions he has made not only to the music field, but to the local community.”
Brooks has Hepatitis C and cancer of the liver and needs a liver transplant. He also needs a series of expensive medical tests performed which will require a co-payment that he can’t afford. “He's on the liver transplant list but he doesn't know when one will be available,” Taylor says. “In order to get a liver, you have to have certain tests to see if you are compatible and those tests require co-payments. He doesn't have enough money for those co-payments. So, we want to make sure that we raise enough money so he can at least immediately get those tests.”
His illness is also causing him to lose his teeth. “They are literally pulling his teeth out as we speak. Each tooth costs about $200 to pull out and he has to get just about all of them pulled out and dentures put in but he can't afford it,” Taylor says. “So, he's waiting on that, too, and that affects his eating.”
During this holiday season when cards and music fill our homes, Taylor and friends are asking the community to send a “prayerful shout out” to Charlie and make a gift of $25 or more. By donating through their fiscal agent, Arts Wisconsin, the gift will be tax-deductible.
“I was very surprised and very grateful when I found out about Chuck's efforts to help me. I had no idea that he would do this,” Brooks says. “But I know the type of man that Chuck is and that he's out in the community and very helpful, but I didn't expect anybody to do anything for me. I was very surprised by this.”
Brooks is a legendary Madison musician and over his long career has been part of opening acts for or worked with many national and international stars. “I've been lucky enough to play with a lot of great musicians during my music career,” Brooks says. “I've worked with The Supremes, The Temptations, Sly and The Family Stone, Frankie Avalon, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Buddy Miles. I've learned from some of the best.”
Brooks has been playing professionally since he was 14 years old. It is his passion.
“I've been an entertainer my whole life and I am really comfortable up on stage and trying to make somebody smile or make them happy,” Brooks says. “It's what I live for. I live to play. That's what gets me out of my sickbed; it gives me energy when I'm tired. I enjoy it so much.”
Brooks lives in an assisted living facility but his music and occasional opportunity to perform helps him cope with his illness. “Music is probably the only thing that is keeping me alive right now,” Brooks says. “It's something I really look forward to. It's my driving force.”
For over a decade, Brooks was lead singer for Clyde Stubblefield's band and has played with him quite a bit over the last 15 years. “Clyde is also going through his share of health problems, too,” Brooks says. “We are both in the same boat. And music is his passion, too. We're like a sock and a shoe when we play together. He feels the same way as me: Music has been our way of life forever and we can't think of anything else like it or living life without it.”
Taylor didn't know how sick Brooks was until he saw him at a very recent performance at Knuckle Down Saloon on Madison's east side. “Before he got on stage, you could see that he wasn't feeling well, but the minute he got on stage and they handed him that microphone, it's like a transformation takes place. You can see the change in energy — the house goes wild,” Taylor says. “I asked him about that: How can you get out of your sickbed to come and perform for the public like this? He told me, 'That's what keeps me going. My music is my life. If I can't perform, I don't know what would happen.'”
When Brooks elaborated to Taylor about his dismal health situation, Taylor couldn't sit still.
“I didn't have a clue that he was this sick until that night…. it had been a little while since I'd seen him last,” Taylor remembers. “I told him that night that I would do something. I had to twist his arm to get him to do it.”
There are currently three people on the fund-raising committee. “If anybody wants to join, they can. We wanted to make sure that we get the word out as much as possible,” Taylor says. “We are really putting it out there and we're hoping to have a snowball effect to help reach our goal. We're counting on the generosity of Madisonians. With their help and with the help of others, we will at least raise awareness and we're hoping that people will give.”
When the fund-raising goals are met and Brooks is able to get the medical attention that he needs, he hopes to have a big “Thank-You” performance for everybody who helped him.
“I told Chuck that if I could play for people when this is all done that it would be so much to me because that is my passion … just to be on stage and entertaining,” Brooks says. “It will give me the thrill I need to live another day.”
One hundred percent of your gift will be used to cover Charlie Brooks' health costs. Please give $25 or more and make this a special holiday for one of Madison's unsung treasures.
Here's how to give. Make your check payable to:
Arts Wisconsin and mail to:
P.O. Box 1054,
Madison, WI 53701-1054. Anyone wanting to donate using a credit card can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions.
To contact Charles Taylor to help, e-mail email@example.com