'Godfather of Go-Go,' Chuck Brown Dies
5/16/2012, 5:56 p.m.
Chuck Brown, the legendary musician and pioneer of Go-Go, has died at the age of 75. His passing was confirmed late Wednesday by his daughter, KK Brown.
Brown, who was widely revered as D.C.'s "Godfather of Go-Go," had been hospitalized in recent weeks with pneumonia, and because of his failing health numerous shows had been cancelled -- including a performance in April that celebrated the re-opening of the District's historic Howard Theatre.
"I'm devastated. That's a serious loss. All of D.C. will be mourning," said Charles Stephenson, author of The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. "Chuck was the Godfather of Go-Go, but he was a also the godfather of all of us. He steered several generations straight and tried to be role model to all of us. He brought the best out of a lot of local artists."
In addressing rumors a week ago of her father's two-month absence from public performances, KK Brown said he was in the hospital recovering. At the time she asked that his fans keep him in their prayers. Sources close to his family have said that Brown initially was treated for arthritis and a removed blood clot, the latter resulting in his bout with pneumonia.
Brown was credited with creating Go-Go more than two decades years ago -- a music genre which had become known as Washington's own brand of funk. In creating the Go-Go sound, Brown combined Latin beats, African call and response chants and American Jazz, throwing in a touch of soul with a continuous drumbeat. This non-stop dance music is, and has been, a trademark of original creative music from the nation's capital, and has gained Chuck Brown worldwide fans.
But Brown burst onto the musical scene in 1971 with his first hit "We The People." That success was followed by the gold album "Bustin' Loose" and the No. 1 hit single of the same title on MCA/Source Records. Years later song was sampled in the 2002 Nelly hit, "Hot in Herre."
Born in Gaston, N.C., Brown moved to D.C. with his family when he was a toddler.
According to his biography, he started playing guitar, inspired by the gospel music of his youth, and by jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. In the early '60s Brown joined the group Jerry Butler and His Earls of Rhythm. A few years later, Brown joined Los Latinos, a popular dance band that was helping spread the mambo craze around the mid-Atlantic. Brown's notions of rhythmic complexity took shape while playing in this band, particular his desire to bring congas and cowbells into R&B.
Some of the high points of his career include having been chosen to represent Washington D.C, at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Brown has also received the Mayor's Arts Award and dozens other awards for his musical contributions.
Upon learning of his death, thousands of Brown's Facebook fans began posting messages expressing the impact of his passing on their lives.
Wayne Bruce wrote, "Today Heaven has gotten so much funkier!!!!...As a guitarist you could not be more funkier than the Godfather, as a human you couldn't been kinder, and as an Innovator it speaks for itself. 'Go-Go' since its inception has influenced every popular form of recent music...R.I.P. Chuck Brown ...I Love the man and his music!!!.."Wind me up Chuck"!!!!"
Michael Allen wrote: "Chuck u influenced alot of bands now and bands to come. U have graced many stages and played in many venues..anyone from DC/MD understands wut im talkin bout...thx for all the parties, the music and last but not least the memories..we love you and will always love you...R.I.P.
And, Cyprian Bowlding wrote, "D.C. and the music world has lost an icon. The Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown is no longer with us. I had the honor of working camera for his half-time show at Fed Ex Field a few years ago. It was one of many highlights in my career. My prayers and condolences to the Go-Go community and the family of Chuck Brown. He may be gone but his music will live forever."