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Remembering Go-Go Legend Chuck Brown

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Remembering Go-Go Legend Chuck Brown

Music Articles

Remembering Go-Go Legend Chuck Brown

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The Godfather of Go-Go has died. Chuck Brown helped create the style of music that became the signature sound of the nation's capital.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this remembrance.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: With his gravelly voice, his signature fedora, shades and a gold tooth, Chuck Brown always knew how to rock a crowd.

CHUCK BROWN: I want y'all to make some noise. Giddyup!


DEL BARCO: Brown's call-and-response with the audience, a slow conga beat: go-go, a blend of funk, soul and Latin party music he helped create in the early 1970s.

BROWN: It's a groove. It's a feeling that goes on and on and on. That's why they call it go-go.

DEL BARCO: Brown told NPR in 2007 that the musical hooks he and his band The Soul Searchers developed were best experienced live.

BROWN: You got the percussion and a little funky music there, and some funky lyrics that you might shout at the audience, and they holler back at you. I mean, that's the full ingredients of it.


BROWN: (Singing) When you walk in the club, you want to show some love. What? Row, row, row, row, row.

DEL BARCO: Brown was born in 1936, into a family of North Carolina sharecroppers. When he was eight, they moved to Washington, D.C. As a teen, Brown ended up serving eight years behind bars for shooting a man in what he said was self-defense. In prison, he says he swapped five cartons of cigarettes for another inmate's guitar. And when he was released, he began singing at local nightclubs and recording.


BROWN: I feel like bustin' loose. Give me the bridge, y'all. Give me the bridge now, now.

DEL BARCO: Brown's song "Bustin' Loose" hit number one on Billboard's R&B charts in 1979. It was his biggest hit, and years later, rapper Nelly sampled it for his song "Hot in Herre."

Natalie Hopkinson, who has a new book about go-go, says Chuck Brown's music became the soundtrack for Washington, D.C.'s black community.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: He was royalty in the city. This is just kind of inconceivable that he's gone, because he was such an embodiment of the music that just went and went and went.

DEL BARCO: And so did Chuck Brown, for more than four decades.

BROWN: I still have some fire here, you know, I'm still getting hired. So ain't no point in being retired. I just want to go on and on, until it's over.

DEL BARCO: Chuck Brown died yesterday.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


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