Thomas DeCarlo Callaway (born May 30, 1974), better known by his stage name CeeLo Green (sometimes rendered as Cee Lo Green or Cee-Lo Green), is an American singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor, and businessman.
Green came to initial prominence as a member of the southern hip hop group Goodie Mob and later as part of the soul duo Gnarls Barkley, with record producer Danger Mouse. Subsequently he embarked on a solo career, partially spurred by YouTube popularity.
Internationally, Green is best known for his soul work: his most popular was Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 worldwide hit Crazy, which reached number 1 in various singles charts worldwide, including the UK. In the United States, “Crazy” reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Its parent album St. Elsewhere (2006), was also a hit, peaked at number 1 on the UK Albums Chart and number 4 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. Gnarls Barkley’s second album, The Odd Couple (2008), charted at number 12 on the Billboard 200.
In 2010, Green took a hiatus from working with Danger Mouse, and released a solo single titled “Fuck You!”, on August 19. The song became a successful single, with the radio-edit version “Forget You”, reaching the top spot in the UK and the Netherlands and peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Its parent album, The Lady Killer (2010), saw similar success, peaking within the top five of the UK Albums Chart and debuting within the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, receiving a Gold certification from the BPI in the UK. His next two singles, “It’s OK” and “Bright Lights Bigger City” were also hits in Europe. From 2011 to 2014, Green was a judge and coach on American reality television singing competition The Voice, appearing on four of its seasons. In 2013, Green reunited with the rest of Goodie Mob, to release their fifth studio album Age Against the Machine.
He worked as a voice actor in the animated feature Hotel Transylvania (2012), and also appeared in a few television programs and films—including his own show, The Good Life, on TBS. Green has endorsed 7 Up, Duracell, M&M’s, and sake brand TY KU. His work has earned numerous awards and accolades, including five Grammy Awards, a BET Award, a Billboard Award, and a Brit Award.
Green was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from high school at Riverside Military Academy, a boarding school for boys in Gainesville, Georgia. Both of his parents were ordained ministers, and he started his music career in church. His father died when Green was two years old. His mother, Sheila J. Tyler-Callaway, a firefighter, was paralyzed in a car crash and died two years after the accident when Green was 18.
At the time of his mother’s death, Green’s career with Goodie Mob had just begun taking off. He sank into a deep depression, which he later wrote about in various songs throughout his career, including “Free” by Goodie Mob, “Just a Thought” on St. Elsewhere, and “She Knows” and “A Little Better” on The Odd Couple. Green also wrote about his mother in the song “Guess Who” from Goodie Mob’s album Soul Food. In an excerpt of CeeLo Distilled, a documentary produced by Absolut and The Fader, Green explained that his mother’s death was a defining moment that led him toward “crossing that threshold over into a career”.
Along with Big Gipp, T-Mo, and Khujo, Green was an original member of the Atlanta hip hop group Goodie Mob. He is the youngest of the four. The Goodie Mob was a part of the Atlanta rap collective the Dungeon Family, which also included Outkast. Goodie Mob appeared on two tracks on OutKast’s 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, with Green providing vocals for “Call of da Wild” and “Git Up, Git Out”.
Goodie Mob released their debut album, Soul Food, in 1995. The album received much critical praise as a pioneering record for the emerging Southern rap scene. It featured a distinctive soulful southern sound by production team Organized Noize.
During this time, he also contributed backing vocals to TLC’s hit 1995 song “Waterfalls”.
The group’s second album, Still Standing, came out in 1998 and also received much critical praise. Its commercial performance was slightly lower than the group’s previous effort, however. Green took more creative control on the group’s next album, World Party, which was released in 1999.
In around 1999, during the making of the album World Party, Green left the group to pursue a solo career under Arista and the remaining members continued to perform together under the Goodie Mob name with Koch Records. They did however collaborate in combinations in the Dungeon Family album Even in Darkness.
The song “Hold On” from Big Boi of OutKast’s Got Purp? Vol. 2 album was the first newly recorded Goodie Mob song with all four members since World Party. (Khujo later revealed to fans at an album signing for his new album “Mercury”, that the song “Hold On” was originally recorded in 1995 before Soul Food was released.)
Green was one of ten guest musicians who contributed to the 1999 Santana album Supernatural. Lauryn Hill wrote “Do You Like The Way”, and she and Green both provided lead vocals.
Green’s Arista career was short-lived, as he was dropped after two albums due to low record sales. His first album, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections (2002), was heavily in the vein of various other Dungeon Family releases, with southern soul/funk/jazz backings produced by Green and boasting appearances by fellow Dungeon Fam members Big Gipp and Backbone. The album did not sell very well, but Green achieved some airplay with the single “Closet Freak”.
His second Arista album, Cee-Lo Green… Is the Soul Machine (2004) brought a more branched-out sound and more deeply explored southern rap music. This is evidenced by collaborations with “the biggest hip-hop musicians of all time”, including Ludacris, T.I., and Pharrell Williams. The album debuted and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Album chart. It received critical acclaim and was described as “one of the most ambitious albums to come out of any genre in recent times.”
Along with DJ Danger Mouse, Green was part of a duo called Gnarls Barkley. Green first met Danger Mouse at a University of Georgia event. They later collaborated on the remix of the Danger Mouse and Jemini song “What U Sittin’ On?” from the album Ghetto Pop Life, before working together again on the 2005 Danger Doom album The Mouse and The Mask on the song “Benzie Box” where Green delivers the chorus.
Gnarls Barkley’s first collaborative album, St. Elsewhere, was released on April 24, 2006, in the UK and May 2, 2006, in the United States. St. Elsewhere entered the charts at No.1 in the UK, as did the first single “Crazy”. “Crazy” is the first single to reach number one in the UK based on digital download sales alone and is ranked by Rolling Stone as the greatest song of the decade, ergo making it Green’s most successful project to date. A second album by Gnarls Barkley, titled The Odd Couple, was released in March 2008. Its first single was released in January called “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)”.
Seeing the success achieved by Gnarls Barkley, Arista and Legacy released a 17-track greatest hits collection of songs by Green, titled Closet Freak: The Best of Cee-Lo Green the Soul Machine. It features predominantly solo tracks by Green and several Goodie Mob songs. His “What Part of Forever” was included in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack. In 2008, he re-did “Kung Fu fighting” for the animated film Kung Fu Panda.
On August 14, 2010, Green released the single “Fuck You!” to YouTube ahead of his planned solo album release, due to its partial leak on April 13. “Fuck You!” was an instant viral smash hit, registering over two million plays in less than a week. Two weeks later on September 1, CeeLo released to YouTube an official music video of the song. “Fuck You” made a debut at No.1 on the UK charts, notably beating out “Shame” from the recently reunited Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow. On December 1, 2010, CeeLo received five Grammy nominations for Fuck You!, which has been certified Gold in the United States and Denmark. The single achieved platinum status in Canada, New Zealand, and the UK; and multi-platinum status in Australia.
In October 2010, Green released his first mixtape, Stray Bullets. In an interview with Exclaim!, he said his 2010 album The Lady Killer “…is a more clear, concise, consistent, conceptual, entire album [than his previous]. It’s a complete thought, because it’s written to be like a score. The album’s meant to be a motion picture, you know? I’ve never taken that approach to doing an album before.” The album was certified Gold in the UK on December 6, 2010.
Green toured during 2010 and 2011 with an all-female backing band named “Scarlet Fever” (made up of Sharon Aguilar, Brittany Brooks, Theresa Flaminio, and Regina Zernay Roberts), performing for Taratata, the BBC, Late Show with David Letterman, W’s Symmetry Live Concert Series, Saturday Night Live, the Jimmy Kimmel Live! special show following the Academy Awards, and many other venues. Green also performed “Forget You”, a sanitized version of his hit “Fuck You”, with Gwyneth Paltrow and several puppets provided by The Jim Henson Company at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011. His performance was in part an homage to Elton John, who wore a very similar costume in a Muppet show performance in 1977. At the 2011 BRIT Awards two days later, he was joined by British vocalist Joelle Bennett in another duet of “Fuck You”. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Green would join Rihanna and J. Cole on the North American leg of Rihanna Loud Tour in the summer of 2011. However, he later dropped out of the tour citing that his busy work schedule, which included his commitment to judging The Voice, writing a new book and recording a new album, as the reason for his withdrawal.
On August 14, 2011, Green performed at WWE SummerSlam performing “Forget You” and the event’s theme, “Bright Lights, Bigger City”. He also performed at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance.
CeeLo re-released his album The Lady Killer as a Platinum Edition on November 28, 2011. The repackaged album contained the original 16 tracks (including remixed versions of Bright Lights Bigger City (feat. Wiz Khalifa) and I Want You (Hold On To Love) plus one extra track, written by Ross Golan, Anyway. The new track, Anyway, served as the album’s sixth overall single and first Platinum Edition single.
Green recorded and wrote “Language of Love”, for the Sex and the City 2 soundtrack. It was rumoured in mid-2010 that Green was working with Alien Ant Farm on a track slated for appearance on an upcoming album by the latter. This was confirmed the following year, however, the track failed to materialize, with Alien Ant Farm singer Dryden Mitchell stating he planned to do a cover of Easy Lover with Green, but Green never recorded his parts.
In March 2012, Green performed at a fundraiser for President Barack Obama, who attended. He began singing “Fuck You” with the original lyrics, but then switched to the non-profane lyrics. Green released the song “I Love Football” in September 2012, set to the tune of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones. It was chosen by the National Football League as the theme song of Thursday Night Football 2013.
On February 5, 2013, Green released the song Only You, featuring Lauriana Mae, a contestant on P. Diddy’s Starmaker. It is set to be on Green’s upcoming fourth album, tentatively titled Girl Power. In the same month, Green kicked off his “CeeLo Green Presents Loberace” tour (or simply “Loberace”). Supposed to be unveiled at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on February 21, 2013, the event was rescheduled to a later date due to a fatal shooting along the Las Vegas Strip where the resort is situated. A few months later, on September 10, Green’s autobiography Everybody’s Brother was released.
From June to August 2014, Green toured alongside Lionel Richie for his North American “All the Hits All Night Long” gig. Green’s new band the “Board Memberz” is led by musical director Printz Board and consists of: Timothy “Izo” Orindgreff, Lucy Graves, Jazelle Rodriguez, Ashley Dzerigan, Patty A. Miller, and Sojung “Liso” Lee.
In January 2015, Green released a concept mixtape with music derived from a variety of TV show theme songs, titled TV on the Radio. Green’s next studio album, Heart Blanche is scheduled for release on November 13, 2015. The lead single, Robin Williams, named after and dedicated to the actor of the same name, was released on July 17, 2015.
Green, along with the rest of the Goodie Mob, had a cameo in the 1999 film Mystery Men as a member of the Not So Goodie Mob, in which he was credited as “Thomas Burton aka Cee lo”. He also has done voice acting work, voicing Prime Cut Miggity-Mo’ Macdaddy Gizzabang Doggy Dog Dog on the Brak Show episode “Brakstreet” in 2002, Frank and Buddy Z Class of 3000′s Christmas special and as Godzilla in the Robot Chicken episode “Squaw Bury Shortcake” in 2007, and Rev. Rollo Goodlove in the Boondocks episodes “The S-Word” and “The Hunger Strike” in 2008. In 2010, he appeared in T-Pain’s Freaknik: The Musical as Light Skin.
On January 15, 2011, Green both acted and performed on NBC’s Saturday Night Live hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow, who, in November 2010, covered his song “Forget You” on an episode of Glee.
Green was one of the coaches for contestants on seasons one through three on the singing TV show The Voice. He retired as a coach on the fifth season.
October 11, 2011, Green also made a guest-star appearance in the NBC show, Parenthood—season 3 episode 6, “Tales From the Luncheonette”.
On August 14, 2011, Green appeared at WWE SummerSlam and performed both “‘Bright Lights Bigger City”, the official theme song for the event, and his hit “‘Forget You”. On September 25, 2011, Green appeared as himself in a live-action/voice appearance and as the voice of a hot tub in the American Dad! episode “Hot Water”.
The following year, on February 5, Green appeared in the Super Bowl halftime show with Madonna. On March 31, 2012, Green appeared in the 2012 Kids’ Choice Awards. On August 8 of that year, he played J.C. Carpenter in the TV Land sitcom The Soul Man, in the episode “J.C. Carpenter’s Gospel Show”. Ten days later, he guest starred in the Nickelodeon show How to Rock in the episode “How to Rock Cee Lo”. That year, he also lent his voice to the animated feature Hotel Transylvania as Murray the Mummy.
On September 6, 2012, NBC said Green would star in and serve as executive producer of a family comedy on the network.
On February 28, 2013, he appeared as himself in the sitcom Anger Management, in the episode “Charlie & Cee Lo”. The same year, he appeared in the film Begin Again.
Green performed at the Singapore Social Star Awards from May 23, 2013, to May 24, 2013.
On June 23, 2014, Green premiered his new reality-based docu-comedy television series CeeLo Green’s The Good Life on TBS, in which he appears with the other members of Goodie Mob. On September 6, 2014, TBS announced that they were canceling the show in the wake of Green’s controversial comments on the nature of rape.
Managed by Primary Wave Entertainment, Green has endorsed various brands, including 7 Up, M&M’s and Duracell. Green owns part of the sake brand TY KU and the company has collaborated with him on a few business ventures, including a commercial promoting the brand, dubbed the “first national sake commercial” in the United States. In 2011, it was estimated by a New York Times reporter that Green earned some US$20 million dollars, predominantly from the endorsement deals, in that year alone.
CeeLo Green has described himself as having been a “goon” in his youth, as well as a “kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, just plain maniac”.
Green was married to Christina Johnson, and divorced in 2005. He and Johnson have a son, Kingston, who was born on September 30, 2000, and Green was stepfather to her daughters, Sierra and Kalah. Sierra appeared on the MTV show My Super Sweet 16 for her 16th birthday party.
On October 30, 2012, Green was accused of sexual battery by a woman with whom he had dined at a Los Angeles restaurant, leading to a nearly year-long investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. On October 21, 2013, Green pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of furnishing a controlled substance after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declined to file a charge of rape of an intoxicated person, citing insufficient evidence. On August 29, 2014, Green pleaded no contest to one felony count of furnishing Ecstasy and was sentenced to three years’ formal probation, 360 hours of community service, and ordered to complete 52 Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
At the April 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Green had his set cut off while performing, and then stormed off stage. CeeLo had arrived 25 minutes late, performed five songs, including “Fuck You” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. His set was scheduled to end at 5:40 p.m. At 5:44, as he was apologizing for being late due to air travel delays, the audio from his microphone was cut off. He then stormed off stage amid boos.
On June 16, 2011, journalist Andrea Swensson of City Pages negatively reviewed one of Green’s performances, writing that it “failed to measure up to the fun factor of his recorded material. Green spent most of the set stationed in front of a microphone at the center of the stage, barely moving an inch while he sang and flanked by two forgettable back-up singers and a DJ that was all but hidden behind a giant LCD display”. In response, the following day Green tweeted “I respect your criticism but be fair! People enjoyed last night! I’m guessing ur gay? And my masculinity offended u? well fuck U!” Green promptly received angered responses from some of his followers on Twitter, to which he replied “Apologies gay community! what was homophobic about that?” In a subsequent interview with magazine Us Weekly, Green stated that his comments were meant in good fun, adding that “I am not harboring any sort of negative feeling toward the gay community” and that “I am one of the most liberal artists that I think you will ever meet, and I pride myself on that.”
On December 31, 2011, Green sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” just prior to the ball drop for New Year’s Eve at New York City’s Times Square. In his rendition, Green replaced the line “and no religion, too” with the words “and all religion’s true”. Many saw this as a substantial revision of the meaning behind Lennon’s original lyrics. Shortly after the performance, Green responded via Twitter: “Yo I meant no disrespect by changing the lyric guys! I was trying to say a world where u could believe what u wanted that’s all” [sic] Green deleted a series of tweets pertaining to this event shortly thereafter.
On September 10, 2013 Green’s appearance on Sirius Radio’s The Opie and Anthony Show was cancelled due to the singer’s failure to arrive on time. Green was told on arrival that he should leave the studio or he would be escorted from the building.
On August 31, 2014 Green was criticised for tweets relating to his sexual battery court case. Two of his specific tweets regarding rape were “People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!” and “If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent”. After sending a number of tweets on the topic of rape, he temporarily deleted his Twitter account. He re-activated it a number of hours later, tweeting the following apology: “I truly and deeply apologize for the comments attributed to me on Twitter. Those comments were idiotic, untrue and not what I believe.”