Even the most devout fan wonders if the blissfully bizarre duo can match the fanatic sensation of Crazy, the compulsively danceable tune covered by countless fawning musicians. (Billy Idols was my favorite, says Cee-Lo. He was my first image of a true rock star.) But thats not their aim. Im an artist, and its a crime to the canvas to paint the same picture over and over. Were concerned about making whole albums rather than just singles.
Serene words for someone shrouded in hype. But he wasnt always so Zen: The son of southern ministers, Cee-Lo lost his father to a heart attack at age 2; 14 years later, his mother suffered a crippling car accident and died a couple of years after. Behavior problems ensued, including depression, petty theft, and muscling for gangs. Military school helped straighten out the future prophet. Am I still a soldier at heart? Yes. Fighting for the liberation of good music! says the divorced dad of three, laughing. My life, including the many wrongs that Ive done, makes sense to me now. Music is an act of redemption on my part. Its a practice of faith.
Of course, its all good now. Today, disciples pack the Gnarls Barkley tent as Cee-Lo leads the frenzied flock wearing costumes from film faves like Grease and Napoleon Dynamite. Our music is come-as-you-are; it includes everyone, he says. Its very honest and genuine in that way. Amen.