Chuck Brown, known as the “Godfather of Go-Go”, lost his battle against sepsis today at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was 75.
Percussive, funky, party music, the music that just goes and goes- these are a few phrases used to describe go-go, a sub genre of funk started in the 70s that embodied black Washington, D.C. and was basically created by Chuck Brown. The songwriter, singer, guitarist, and bandleader weaves together upbeat percussive sounds with swinging horns all the while his deep, warm voice entices audiences to keep on dancing. You can’t help but move your feet.
Raised in D.C. Brown dropped out of school young to lead a childhood filled with odd jobs to make ends meet. Later convicted of aggregated assault and served eight years, he traded cigarettes for a guitar while in prison. When Brown got out, he started the band “The Soul Searchers.” This band, with Brown in the lead, unleashed go-go, D.C’s own homegrown style of funk. At the time, in the late 70s and early 80s, hip-hop was taking hold, but not of D.C. D.C. was a go-go town.
Songs like “Go-Go Swing” and “Block Party” are still local hits. “Bustin Loose” became the anthem for the Washington National’s and is played whenever someone hits a home run. You may have seen Brown featured in Nelly’s song and video “Hot in Herre.”
Oddly enough, Brown and his go-go never really claimed too much fame outside of D.C. But it doesn’t matter because Brown became a local legend and pioneer of an irresistible brand of funk dance music. His call and response lyrics created a connection with his audience and Brown became D.C.’s unofficial mascot.
Check out Brown’s hit “Block Party” from his album “We’re All About the Business” released in 2007. If you do the math, Brown was 71 when this came out. Keep that in mind as you uncontrollably groove to this song. Chuck Brown, you sir, are funk. Rest in peace.
– Maddy Jones