If you’re from the East Coast–particularly from the DMV (DC, Maryland, or Virginia)–you already know what an institution Chuck Brown is. But for those less familiar with the man called the Godfather of Go-Go, the Washington Post has a phenomenal obituary, exploring his life and career. Brown rose to fame in the ’70s, when he invented a kind of hard-driving, percussive music that wove through multiple songs without break or interruption. He is said to have coined the term “go-go” because the music just goes and goes.
His death yesterday, May 16, at the age of 75 came as a shock to DC locals, many of whom believed him to be the stuff of legend. With his frequent performances, boundless energy, and tireless work ethic, few considered that he’d eventually pass away. He shared a unique relationship with his fans, who always chanted “Wind me up, Chuck” when he hit the stage. He’d respond that he loved them, one of many calls and responses, he’d lend to each of his performances. Of his passing, DC native and DJ Rhome Anderson had this to say on his Facebook page, “If you’re not from DC, you might not know what it’s like to share the awesomest granddaddy ever with a few thousand extended family members.” He continued, “DC history will now forever be marked by pre- and post-Chuck eras. Our heart has literally stopped beating.”
The city has already held tributes, including a candlelight vigil last night at the recently reopened Howard Theatre.
Here are a few of the local icon’s most popular and enduring songs.
1. “Bustin’ Loose”
This was Brown’s biggest commercial hit. In 1978, it spent four weeks at the top of the R&B charts.Here’s a version of the song Brown performed at the 2011 Roots Jam Session during Grammy Weekend:
2. “Go-Go Swing”
Here’s live performance from last year, in which Brown performs this classic with his daughter, who frequently took the stage with him as a featured member of his band.
3. “Run Joe”
As this song aptly demonstrates, Chuck Brown has his finger on the pulse of the early rap/hip-hop game.
4. “Take the Go-Go Train”
A play on Duke Ellington’s famed, “Take the A Train,” this song is smooth and elegant while maintaining the steady percussion that characterizes the go-go sound. At the beginning, you can hear the audience chanting, “Wind me up, Chuck.”
Do you have a favorite Chuck Brown song or memory?