I really respect a person who has the guts to be themselves. Like Cee Lo Green. Back in the 1990s, as a member of Goodie Mob – long before he spun his chair around on “The Voice” – Green was a standout in hip hop, and that was fine with me. The man is talented. But I didn’t know much about Green the man – at least until he opened up to Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show, where he promoted his revealing autobiography “Everybody’s Brother.” After hearing him interviewed, I like him even more.
“I was one of those kids, inner-city youth and finding my way. I made it. I made a success out of myself, surprisingly,” said the 39-year-old Atlanta native who was born Thomas DeCarlo Callaway and wrote of dealing with the death of his minister parents. He was 2 when his father died and 17 when he lost his mother. “I’ve said this on a couple of occasions: It feels as if they did not pass on but a form of self passed on,” he said. “And I’m alive because of their energy and their investment in me.”
Green, whose musical tastes spans hip hop, electronica, rock, fun and soul, also writes about how he was bullied, his youthful rebellion and a few other eyebrow-raising adventures. He joined Atlanta-based hip hop group Goodie Mob in 1991 and the quartet released its latest project, “Age Against The Machine,” last month. Green also said he’s working on a new album called “Girl Power.” And of course, we can catch him, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine when “The Voice” returns September 23 on NBC.
In the meantime, check out three tidbits Green revealed during his “Today” interview that I found interesting.
1. Cee Lo’s mother was one of the first African American female firefighters. Green’s mother, Sheila J. Tyler-Callaway, was a volunteer firefighter in metro Atlanta, among the first African American female firefighters. In 1990, his mother was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left her quadriplegic and she died two years later when he was 17. “To lose my mother just as I’m right on the brink of crossing that threshold over into a career, it was pretty compelling. My entire career is my mother’s work, for me,” Green explains in the Absolut-produced mini-documentary “Cee Lo Distilled.”
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2. Bad ass kids made his youth a living hell. Before he was the cool, eccentric host of “The Voice” Green was a kid who got bullied for being different. “There were many times growing up in the Dirty South where I wondered if the big mistake was not my father dying when I was so young but me being born at all. My body was too short. My head was too big. I was strange and I dressed different. So I would get picked on,” Green shares in “Everybody’s Brother.” Now the self-proclaimed underdog is making it work for him. “I make sure I’m a representation and a voice for those who have been unsung and underappreciated,” Green told “Today.” Take that bullies!
3. Cee Lo loves TV theme songs. What does “Family Ties,” “Barney Miller,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Night Court” have in common? Cee Lo Green. “The Voice” judge reveals he loves the theme songs to these 1970s and 1980s iconic TV shows. When “Today’s” Guthrie questioned, “But [“Sanford and Son Theme (The Streetbeater)”] doesn’t have any words, does it?” Green explained, “But just the music is so fitting. It’s so famous, just as famous as Quincy Jones is. It’s a wonderful piece of music.”