Washington, DC’s 5th Gift to the World–Music (Chuck Brown)

While some may debate the musical classification, influences, and origins of go-go, there is no question that Chuck Brown (1934 – ) was a fundamental force behind its creation. Brown was born in North Carolina, but moved to D.C. with his parents at age seven. He grew up listening to jazz and blues and took up playing the guitar. He began his musical career in the early ’60s, making his on-stage debut with Jerry Butler and the Earls of Rhythm. In "65 he began performing with a Latin-inflected band called Los Latinos, whose syncopated backbeat thrilled him.

Affectionately referred to as the "Godfather of go-go," Brown pioneered a musical blend of Latin beats, African call-and-response chants, rhythm and blues, and jazz whose heavy, complex, and non-stop rhythm arrangements inspired people to get up and get down to a brand new funk:

"I got sick and tired of watching people sitting around. Disco was too fast people didn’t want to get all sweaty, and they just sat down. So we cut the beat in half (and called it Go-go) because it never stops."

Go-go in this case is not the popular music of the 1960s that inspired a dance and fashion craze, but rather a music and social scene deeply rooted in our nation’s capital. Brown exploded onto the scene with his first hit "We the People" followed by the gold album "Bustin’ Loose"
and its number one single of the same name. Building on the international success of his mid-80’s album Go Go Swing, Brown went on several tours around the world to play packed international venues.

Today, the sound of go-go is still heard in clubs and dance halls, as well as on the playgrounds and street corners, of D.C. The music continues to hold a large international following and Brown spends much time touring Europe and Asia. In 2000, go-go music was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and Brown was presented with the District of Columbia’s Mayor’s Arts Award for his pioneering contributions to the music of the city. The 2005 opening game for the Washington Nationals baseball team featured Chuck Brown singing "Bustin’ Loose" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. Brown was the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts that same year.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Alicia (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

    Wind me up, Chuck! You ain’t lived til you’ve been to a Chuck Brown party. Sho’ you right.

  2. RIchard (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 6:36 pm

    Paint the white house black y’all!

  3. james (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

    brilliant choice guys. surprised you didn’t add minor threat to your quartet tho’.

  4. darpino (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 11:35 pm

    Hey James –

    I considered doing all of DC Hardcore, but really it all started with Bad Brains, even Minor Threat gives them the cred.

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