A decade ago, everyone went crazy over “Crazy,” the debut single from Gnarls Barkley, the supergroup that consisted of producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and rapper/singer CeeLo Green.
It was not only one of the most successful hits of that year, it spawned a rash of performers – from Bryan Adams to Billy Idol to Jack White – doing covers of the song at their live shows. It appears to be a tradition that continues, as evidenced by country singer Kacey Musgraves doing a fiddle-enhanced version of “Crazy” during her recent performances.
“I heard it’s pretty fantastic,” says CeeLo Green himself, on the phone from Asheville. “You know, for the song to have taken on so many lives and be embraced by so many people, it’s just a wonderful thing. I feel blessed by it.”
“Crazy” could be used to describe how Green’s life and career has been these past few years. The 41-year-old Atlanta native (government name: Thomas DeCarlo Callaway) is currently on his “Love Train Tour,” which make a stop in Raleigh on Sunday. He’s also on the road to promote his latest solo effort, “Heart Blanche,” which came out in November. You could say that “Blanche,” which includes production work from Mark Ronson (who recently won the Record of the Year Grammy for “Uptown Funk”), Eg White (Adele, Sam Smith) and on-the-rise vocalist Charlie Puth, is not just a soul album, but an album full of soul-searching. Green admits that the album reflects “the search to seek and to find that truth within yourself.”
There’s even one track on the album titled “Robin Williams,” where he pays tribute to Williams and other brilliant comics who have passed away. “I was inspired to do that record because you think about the loss of Robin Williams, but you think about the endowment of talent and energy and cause and effect, you know,” he says. “When you lose that, you begin to question your own immortality, because only God or something bigger than ourselves could have endowed that into him.”
Considering some of the trouble he’s been in so far this decade, it’s easy to see why Green is in introspective mode these days. He was embroiled in a sexual battery case in which he was sentenced to three years probation and 360 hours of community service in 2014. (He didn’t make matters better by sending a number of tweets on the subject of rape shortly after the verdict, leading him to briefly deactivate his Twitter account.)
“I’m a human being,” explains Green. “I make mistakes. My life is not defined by one incident, you know what I mean? Nor should I be, nor should any one person be unless it’s totally irreconcilable and irreversible ... I continue to work and I continue to earn and deserve a better future, but you have to work to ensure that. I’m hard at work right now. This is work just speaking to you. It’s a chance to give you an inkling of insidership or insight into my actual life.”
With all that behind him, Green has his sights set on the future. He may do another Gnarls Barkley album. Or perhaps he might find a way back to being part of NBC’s singing-competition show “The Voice,” where he served as a coach for four seasons before leaving the show. But, at the moment, CeeLo Green continues to hit city after city, ready to be a humble, singing servant to all his audiences.
“I’m supposed to be the best example I can be to encourage and inspire people like myself,” he says. “And I feel like it’s a cross I bear because I care for people. I care enough to be honest and I care enough to be apologetic. ... And, so, here I am again like, ‘Hey guys, I apologize. Please forgive me. Let’s all just move on, you know, because there are and there will be even bigger fish to fry. You may have Trump for a president – I don’t know!’”
Who: CeeLo Green, with Escort
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lincoln Theatre, 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh
Info: 919-821-4111 or lincolntheatre.com