Cee Lo Green on finding his voice and becoming 'the Indomitable Showman'
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Before he was Cee Lo Green, member of hip hop's Goodie Mob, the magical voice behind Gnarls Barkley and a larger than life judge on NBC's "The Voice," he was simply Thomas DeCarlo Burton from Atlanta. In "Everybody's Brother," Cee Lo pulls back the curtain and reveals his true self. Here's an excerpt.
The story that you are about to read may sound something like a psychedelic fable. Yes, there’s a very handsome hero. Sure, he might not look exactly like those handsome heroes in other fables, but trust me, this brother is dope all the same. In show business—just like in a treasured comic book—you come across no shortage of strange and frightening creatures. But in my secret and sometimes scary world, at least all of the creatures you meet are very colorful. And as the record shows, I truly love color.
As you shall soon see, in the epic journey that has been my life, there are good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, beautiful princesses, shape-shifting mutants, and pretty much everything in between.
Along the way, some crazy s__t happens in my fable, and at times it might seem like this is going to turn into some kind of grim fairy tale:
Parents die tragically.
A sensitive but magical child lives in the wilderness. Okay, it was actually in southwest Atlanta, but let me say that things could get pretty wild there too.
Valuable and shiny objects are stolen. I know this because I’m the one who stole most them.
Innocence is lost—early and often.
There are cliffhangers and frightening moments when it appears that all hope is lost. There are false endings too because the way I see it, this story isn’t over, not by a long shot.
And there’s the mind-blowing moment of divine intervention when our hero—the angry lost child—discovers that he has amazing superpowers, like he’s some kind of mutant X‑Man or maybe even an XXX-Man.
Bit by bit in this story, our hero learns to master the mystical, magical power in his own voice and travels the whole wide world to try to get lots of other people to feel that same power too. He meets superhuman mentors along the way, gods and goddesses from the realm of music who offer sage advice and grant him blessings. He battles scary monsters and clueless executives who try to stop him from achieving his goals and sharing his gift. Time and time again, our hero defies all the odds and keeps on keeping on.
In the end, our hero rises up to the top of the game and grabs all that is rightfully his—and maybe even a little more while he’s at it.
There is much rejoicing in the land or, as you freaks out there may call it, partying in the clubs.
But for all the bad behavior—most of it by me, I confess—there’s still a very strong moral at the end. Wait for it.
Now here’s the best part: It may all sound like a fable, but make no mistake—this s__t is real.
This book—or whatever more modern device you have so brilliantly chosen to be holding in your hot little hands right now—is, in comic book terms, my origin story. Looking back, I feel that just like many other supernatural characters you might have loved to read about, I had to create myself due to circumstances beyond my control. As you will see, I was born in a sort of chaos but was mystically transformed into a very real character who was fated to ultimately triumph. I renamed this unforgettable character “Cee Lo Green,” and trust me, you’re going to love the guy—just like I do.
In fact, you probably already know a lot about Cee Lo, the Indomitable Showman. He’s everywhere these days, appearing on stages from Las Vegas to London and popping up on your TV screens in The Voice, and in all kinds of specials and guest spots from Saturday Night Live to Anger Management. But he still has some surprises in store for you.
And along the way you will also meet somebody you don’t know: a kid who was born Thomas DeCarlo Burton— most everybody called him Carlo—and who grew up to work out his anger in dangerous and unhealthy ways. That’s me too.
In the end—don’t worry, this is not even a spoiler—music saves my life. And all through this supernatural tale there is a soundtrack of some of the best and funkiest music ever made. As far back as I can remember I had voices running through my head: James Brown, Jackie Wilson, the Reverend Al Green, Bill Withers. Those beautiful, badass voices I heard singing and speaking to me from an early age taught me everything that truly matters in this world. Eventually they helped me find my own voice.
That’s why I’m so happy to write this book, to expose my roots, to confess to my crimes, and to let you know how this showman got over in the business, with women, and eventually with the whole world. As a rule I’m the kind of guy who likes retaining a little mystique, but now I want to show where I’m coming from, literally.
To tell this story right, I’ve decided I need a little help, so I’m going to call on Big Gipp—my brother from another mother, who knows me better than anybody. He’s a couple of years older, but we grew up in the same time and place—southwest Atlanta, just when it was earning its reputation as Ground Zero of the Dirty South. We became part of Goodie Mob together, and he’s still a very important part of my mob today. Gipp has a lot of knowledge about things, not all of it verifiable. In fact, we’ve given him the nickname “Minister of Misinformation.” But when it comes to Atlanta, music, and me, Gipp is the authority. So from time to time, Gipp is going to weigh in from the sidelines with commentary and extra bonus stories told from his own perspective.
I’m calling this book Everybody’s Brother because, in my own strange way, I’m the proverbial boy next door—if you just so happen to live in a very colorful and extremely sexy neighborhood. It’s a way of saying there’s a black sheep in every family, so we can all relate to each other…even if you feel like the black sheep or the underdog.
By finding my voice, I figured out how to live, and to live pretty well if I say so myself. Find your own voice in this world, and I truly believe that you can do the same thing, and do it your way. I write this book not just to celebrate my own voice and to revel in my own success story but to help encourage the next generation to listen closely to the voices in their own heads, so that maybe someday they can rise up and share their voices with the world too.
So listen up. This success story could be yours too.
May we all find our own voices and keep on rising together.
Excerpted from the book EVERYBODY’S BROTHER by Cee Lo Green with Big Gipp and David Wild. © 2013 by Cee Lo Green IP Holding, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.