Chuck Brown was the Godfather of “go-go” music — a funky, percussion-heavy sound popularized in the Washington, D.C. area. News of his death Wednesday was particularly stunning because Brown performed in an ageless fashion, even at 75.
Brown had been hospitalized with pneumonia symptoms and apparently passed from multiple organ failure.
The iconic figure in D.C. resided at the forefront of the go-go scene for more than four decades. His ardent followers would, in unison, chant, “Wind me up, Chuck,” as a call for him to come on stage and thrill them with his raspy voice and rhythmic music that promoted all-night dancing.
Brown performed in concert halls and roller skating rinks, at festivals and college homecomings.
His 1978 hit, “Bustin’ Loose,” ascended to No. 1 the MCA charts. The song was later sampled in the 2002 Nelly song, “Hot in Herre.”
“Bustin’ Loose” was “the one record I had so much confidence in,” Brown told The Washington Post in 2001. “I messed with it for two years, wrote a hundred lines of lyrics and only ended up using two lines. . . . It was the only time in my career that I felt like it’s going to be a hit.”
That was his biggest commercial hit, but inside the Beltway, his songs “We Need Some Money,” “Go-Go Swing” and “Run Joe” were local anthems, reinforced by radio play and the seemingly never-ending schedule of six-nights-a-week performances.
But go-go music did not follow the nation trend of rap music. Young and black Washington, D.C. embraced it full bore, with other groups developing as off springs of Brown: Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, Experience Unlimited, among others.
Recent failing health prevented Brown from a rigorous performance schedule. Typical of his mind, Brown spoke to the Post in 2006 as if he were reciting lyrics.
“I’m not retired because I’m not tired. I’m still getting hired and I’m still inspired,” he said then. “As long as I can walk up on that stage, I want to make people happy. I want to make people dance.”