Chuck Brown, the man known as the Godfather of Go-Go, died yesterday at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. The legendary musician and Washington, DC icon was 75.
Brown is best known as the driving force behind Go-Go, a percussion heavy variation of funk music that’s been a staple of the District’s cultural identity since the 70s. While Brown’s musical achievements are nearly legendary — his marathon live shows were known to wind up audiences into a dancing frenzy well into the night — the late musician was also a figurehead of the DC community. For many of DC’s pre-gentrification residents, Go-Go music is a huge point of pride and Brown’s frequent concerts were social events galvanized by constant call-and-response interaction between the audience and stage. As DC council chair Kwame Brown says, “Go-Go to DC [is] like jazz is to New Orleans or country music is to Nashville.”
In DC, the public response to Brown’s death has already been enormous. Last night traffic on U Street, the city’s historic entertainment corridor known as “Black Broadway,” was at a standstill as mourners gathered outside the Howard Theater for a candlelight vigil. The mood was more a celebration of the man’s life than a funeral; by 8 p.m. the crowd was already getting down to some of Chuck’s best known hits.