While thousands of Chuck Brown fans filed past his casket this week to bid farewell to the Godfather of Go-Go who died May 16 at the age of 75. Many of them were asking the million dollar question – is Go-Go gone, too? Without the music, the style, the reputation and the vision of Chuck Brown, it's almost safe to assume that the music's driving beat of drums, congas, and trumpets would have been gone years ago had Chuck Brown not made Go-Go the iconic music style of D.C. In spite of its limited popularity outside of the D.C. area, Go-Go was a force that created pride among local residents in the city from which this distinctive music style was derived.
New groups have tried to emulate Chuck Brown, but none have come close to doing it the way Chuck did.
D.C. is a melting pot of races, cultures, religions and philosophies coming from people who bring with them their own sense of style. It has pretty much been that way for decades which is why former elected officials and promoters of the District finally decided that it was important – even necessary – to establish and define what "It's a DC thang!" really means.
It means half-smokes – not just any half-smokes – but the one's only Ben's Chili Bowl can serve to a hungry late night crowd on U Street in Northwest. It means pride in each of the city's eight wards, neighborhoods and streets that residents call home. It definitely means struggle – political struggle – for voting rights and Statehood and self-determination. And, it means having fun the D.C. way by hand dancing and through music. Chuck Brown understood well the notion of the "DC thang!" and sang about it along with promoting D.C.'s institutions and culture, including everything mentioned above.
There may be those who will continue to produce the Go-Go sound, but no one will be able to make it sound as good as Chuck Brown did. Go-Go music may wane, but there's enough of Chuck Brown's music left to teach any new artist who is eager to learn how to write, produce, and perform the way Chuck Brown did.
May Chuck Brown rest in peace and may his Go-Go sound live on.