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Published: 2012/05/17

Chuck Brown (1936-2012)

Photo by Dino Perrucci

Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-go, passed away yesterday in Baltimore, MD. He had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia and ultimately succumbed to multiple organ failure while at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Brown is considered to be the progenitor of the DC-funk sub-genre go-go, a style which has been the basis of a number of popular songs in other genres, including Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” and The Roots’ “Rising Up.” Closer to home, Lettuce has a track on their forthcoming Fly entitled “Let It Gogo” and similarly touched on the style on Rage’s “Makin’ My Way Back Home.”

Brown began his career in the early 60’s, playing guitar and singing with DC staples Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm, and Los Latinos. He eventually went on to lead his own group, the Soul Searchers, until the groups breakup in the mid-80s. The band’s song “Ashley’s Roachclip” is of particular note, with samples of the tune appearing on a number of other artists’ works, ranging from Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” to Run-DMC’s “Run’s House.” Brown continued to perform as a band leader until earlier this year, before being sidelined with illness.

He enjoyed an exalted stature in the Washington, DC area, receiving such honors as the block of 7th Street NW between Florida Avenue and T Street being renamed Chuck Brown Way in 2009, and having the National Symphony Orchestra perform his music—alongside the works of Duke Ellington and John Philip Sousa—at a celebration of Legends of Washington Music.

Despite the underground nature of the music he committed himself to, Brown did receive a Grammy nomination in 2010, for the track “Love,” a collaboration with Jill Scott and Marcus Miller. Brown leaves behind two sons and an extensive catalog of go-go classics.

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