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“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

Chuck Brown


Marshall Thompson The Chi-lites

One Word: Master (of his music) because he touched a lot of hearts and a lot of people. Go-Go Mickey One Word: Genius

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Cover photo: “So Close to Us” from the forthcoming “The Go-Go Book: People in the Pocket in Washington, D.C. courtesy of TSE ©2007. Above, Photo courtesy of Hilsdon Photography LLC – www.hilsdonphoto.com

BrowN Chuck

the Last Informer Interview

“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

By Karisse Carmack WI Staff Writer I first met Chuck Brown in late October 2010, to interview him for a feature story in the Informer. As I waited for Brown and his manager to show up at Tryst Coffeehouse in Adams Morgan, I was still surprised my editor had asked me to do the story several days before. Brown had just released an album featuring Jill Scott, among other guest artists. Like many local residents, I grew up listening to his music and saw Brown in local commercials. Brown arrived in his trademark hat, shades, and a suit was a total gentleman. He had no airs, and graciously answered my question, smiling and laughing often. I walked away impassioned by Brown’s appreciation for local residents and their love of his music. Fans approached him during our interview and he respectfully paused each time to shake hands, give hugs, sign autographs, and pose for camera-phone pictures. He loved his fans, and his fans loved him. I am honored to have had the opportunity to meet and interview Chuck Brown and present portions of that interview for your reading here.

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o-Go pioneer Chuck Brown is in the prime of his life: a music career that spans more than three decades and counting, the admiration and respect of local residents, and a new album that recently received a Grammy Award nomination. Not bad for a man who once shined shoes for entertainers as a child and later had run-ins with the law. Dressed in black from

head to toe with his signature hat and gold-rimmed shades during a recent interview at Tryst Coffeehouse in Northwest, Brown smiled easily and spoke in a low, deep voice. Brown, 74, said he was grateful to still be around performing. “D.C. to me has been so great; my greatest inspiration has been this city,” Brown said. Brown’s newest album, “We Got This,” is a threedisc set featuring an album recorded in the studio, a live album, and a DVD of a live concert performance. For “We Got This,” Brown collaborated with artists who included R&B singers Jill Scott and Ledisi, and Jazz musician Marcus Miller. “Love,” the new album’s single that features Scott and Miller, was nominated earlier this month for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, by The Recording Academy. Go-Go, the genre Brown helped create, is a blend of funk, Latin percussion, and R&B. While the genre’s popularity remains strong,

Brown said he had a difficult time trying to convince fellow musicians about the legitimacy of his musical creation. “I had no idea it would just be [me] creating something that people like,” Brown said. “I had to change three or four drummers,” he said, in reference to the direction in which he wanted to take his music. During the 1970s, Brown said that he was performing in a club when he started to try some of the beats that would eventually be associated with the go-go genre. His drummer disliked the beat, but Brown said it didn’t matter: when he looked out on the floor, he saw the audience grooving to the beat. The experience taught Brown a very valuable lesson. When performing, “you don’t play for yourself; you play for your fans,” he said. Brown’s tastes in music did not exist in a vacuum. Growing up, Brown’s mother was a source of musical inspiration, and people predicted that he would one day be successful.

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Jalil Hutchins Singer, Whodini

One Word: My man! Stacey Lattisaw R& B Singer

One Word: Loved, because Chuck Brown was loved by lots and lots of people. His music reached dc metro area, it was global and legacy will live on.

The enjoyment of entertaining is evident on the faces of Chuck Brown (left) and Doug E. Fresh (right) during a recent performance. /Photo by Shevry Lassiter

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At eight or nine years old, Brown also shined shoes for the popular musicians who performed at local venues. As a young man, he later had brushes with law, and spent time in prison. “I didn’t get serious about music until I was 24,” Brown said. To this day, Brown said he listens to young people, which he credits as one of the reasons why he has enjoyed longevity in the music business. His daughter, KK, even performs with him on stage.

“She listens to her daddy, and I listen to her. When you don’t listen to young people, you give up,” Brown said. The elder Brown considers his family among his proudest achievements. “I ain’t been to jail in over 50 years. I got my high school diploma [during my incarceration], I got some skills. I have four beautiful children,” Brown said. He and his wife have been married for 27 years, “with over 50 years of togetherness,” and have six grandchildren,

dren, families, and the elderly. The music legend said that he was once homeless, and that he makes an effort to visit the homeless shelters. Brown also has advice for aspiring musicians: work hard at your craft, protect your image, and be there for your family. “Whatever you do, be it big or small, do it well or not at all, and that comes from not giving up,” he said. Brown also stressed the importance of having a clean public image, and to avoid compromising positions that can be leaked on the Internet, which can end up embarrassing your loved ones. “Do whatever is necessary to keep your family together. If you don’t have one, get one,” he said. With go-go now spanning more than three decades, Brown sees a bright future for the genre. “It ain’t going nowhere. If it fades out anywhere else, it’s still gonna be” popular in D.C., Brown said. wi

“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

“My mom, she out-sang everybody in the family,” Brown said. “I played the piano in church. Before that, I was wild, running around.” Outside of his family, Brown said his favorite is musician is blues guitarist Bobby Parker. “I don’t think he got the credit,” Brown said. Parker was the “greatest blues player” and Brown said he admired Parker’s stage presence. “He makes you feel down to your very soul,” Brown said.

ranging from six months to 11 years old. Like others who are at the peak of their careers, the husband, father, and grandfather does have his share of regrets. “When I was boxing, I wish I had become a world champion, but that didn’t work out,” Brown said. Though he never boxed professionally, Brown said he was “inspired” by the sport; he began boxing at the age of 10 and continued until he was 30 or 34, he said There were times when Brown also turned down opportunities due to his personal convictions. “I was given an opportunity to play on a [military] base. I told them to bring them [the troops] home, then I’ll perform,” Brown said. “I’m not going to Iraq,” Brown said, calling the conflict an “ignorant war.” Local residents also praise Brown’s music and career. In the future, Brown said his next album will have some gospel tunes. He said that he also wants to open a homeless shelter for chil-

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Ken Schubert Cue Records

One Word: Treasure, because Chuck Brown was a total treasure. He commanded respect and people stepped up in his presence. He could walk in a room and everything would change. He was the most polite and kindmannered man you could ever meet and the consummate gentleman. Chris Thomas Comedian

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Shannon Brown and Troy Willis honor the memory of Chuck Brown by wearing t-shirts to express their adoration for the Godfather of GoGo. / Photo by Shevry Lassiter

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One Word: There are a whole lot that define him, but spiritual is it.

Fans of Chuck Brown sign their condolences to gigantic card at the corner of 7th and T Street Northwest, Tues., May 29. / Photo by Mark Mahoney

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Chuck Brown fans, Aleta Petty (right) and Kim Halt (left), paid their respects to Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown in front of a makeshift memorial at the of 7th and T Streets in Northwest, Tues.,, May 29. / Photo by Mark Mahoney

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)Fans by the thousands signed condolences to Chuck Brown’s family outside the Howard Theater in Northwest D.C. during a Wake and Remembrance Service, Tues., May 29. / Photo by Roy Lewis

“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

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Googie Sound producer

One Word: Very Real. Very giving. Al Johnson The Unifics lead singer

One Word: Unforgettable

District Mourns Loss of Godfather of Go-Go

Chuck Brown Legendary Musical Icon Celebrated as a Visionary and Mentor to Fans, Other Artists

By Shantella Y. Sherman WI Staff Writer

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he District of Columbia is known throughout the world by many monikers: the nation’s capital, ‘Chocolate City,’ and the seat of Western democracy. However, among Go-Go music enthusiasts worldwide, it is known as Go-Go central. And its king, affectionately known as the Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, enjoyed a reign unlike that of any seated elected official

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in D.C. history. Brown succumbed to pneumonia, Wed., May 16, following a stay in the intensive care unit of Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore. He was 75. Brown had demonstrated little signs of slowing down until his hospital stay and his death left both fans and industry colleagues in shock. Within hours of his death, impromptu block parties, replete with driving Go-Go beats, dancing, and chanting, erupted all over the metropolitan area. Many told the Washington

Informer that with Brown’s death they lost a close friend, mentor and father figure, as well as a musical icon. “It was an honor for me to work with Chuck Brown and promote his music. I was a follower of Chuck’s before I got into the business,” said Bo Sampson, who promoted the song “Your Game” and a mix with Peaches & Herb, and one with Sugar Bear with Brown. “I think the legacy of Chuck Brown for the city is a blueprint to keep his name alive.” American Urban Radio

Network’s White House reporter April Ryan said she can remember dancing to Bustin’ Loose in the backseat of her mother’s Chevrolet and being heavily influenced by his music. After meeting Brown in a parking garage, Ryan said she was awed by his approachability. “He parked his gray convertible Mercedes Benz in a garage close to the White House. The parking attendants knew him and told me that was the great Chuck Brown. I introduced myself and held a brief chat with the Godfather of Go-Go. He was so nice. It was great to meet him after decades of dancing to his vibe. Chuck Brown will be missed but his contributions live on,” Ryan said. Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, front man for the GoGo band EU (Experience Unlimited) said in a word, Chuck Brown was a major talent and great man. “Chuck was the reason I started playing Go-Go. He was first among us to play rock music. Chuck played and acted the same way on and off stage, and he always

gave great advice,” Sugar Bear said. Brown certainly made a lasting impression on all who met him. For hip-hop lyricist Big Daddy Kane, sharing the stage with Brown during the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage Cruise two years ago was life-changing. At his passing, Kane immediately tweeted, “Go-Go will never be the same.” Some musicians closest to Brown felt they loss a mentor and friend. Rare Essence percussionist Milton “Go-Go Mickey” Freeman said that had it not been for Brown, few other Go-Go bands would have reached their mark. “Chuck Brown started a lot of bands playing in the city like EU and Trouble. You got bands that are playing in television shows and movies because of what Chuck started. It’s hurting a lot of people and you could turn to him about industry issues. I don’t know who we can turn to now. Really, if you had

See Go-go on Page 26

“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

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go-go continued from Page25 business questions, you first wanted to hear from Chuck because he had seen the good and the bad and would genuinely help other artists. His passing is going to affect us for a while,” Mickey said. Brown began his career in the 1960s, having been inspired by artists like James Brown and performing with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm and the percussiondriven Latin band, Los Latinos. Brown soon developed a call and response routine with Los Latinos that later became a staple of Go-Go performances. Charles Louis Brown was born in Gaston, N.C. and had his first hit with “We the People” on the debut album of the same name in 1972. In 1978, the Soul Searchers became Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, and Chuck’s original composition “Bustin’ Loose” took the #1

spot in Billboard, on Source/ MCA Records. The song is currently featured in a national television campaign for Chips Ahoy cookies. Brown was also featured in the D.C. Lottery’s “Rolling Cash 5” ad campaign singing his 2007

song “The Party Roll”. Brown is survived by his wife Jocelyn “JaJa” Brown, daughter Takesa “KK” Donelson and sons Wiley Brown, Nekos Brown and Bill Thompson. At print, funeral arrangements for Brown had

not been finalized. Please check the www.washingtoninformer.com for up-to-theminute information as it becomes available. wi (Read the article in its entirety online at www.washingtoninformer. com)

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The Washington Informer mourns the passing of two great Go-Go legends, Anthony “Lil’ Benny” Harley and Chuck Brown. / Photo taken at Reston Town Center courtesy of TSE (2009).

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Got Chuck? By B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr. President & CEO, Industrial Bank

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ike many others in the Washington Metropolitan area, I too was raised on Chuck Brown’s music and GoGo. I even got the t-shirt. GoGo, for so many of us in DC, isn’t just a musical genre, its part of our make up, our soul. Chuck was the creator of this wonderful genre that is indigenous to Washington, D.C. When I took my cassette tapes to college in New Jersey, they called it “pot and pans” music. Whatever. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. I got it. You had to be from DC to understand and feel Go-

Go. He gave us something only we get; it’s personal and cultural. Thanks Chuck.

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huck was a brilliant musician, an accomplished jazz guitarist, but here’s why Chuck is different. Chuck birthed a sound that combines traditional jazz, funk, swing, with call and response, which was very popular in African music. I like the swing part, like a pendulum with swagger. On top, he put soulful horn arrangements that rival many 70’s groups like Earth, Wind, and Fire.

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hile Chuck had a huge local following, his feet were always on the ground, and as much as we loved him, he loved us more. He always made time to speak to everybody, even when it threw his manager, Tom Goldfogle’s schedule off. I loved to watch Tom try, unsuccessfully, to usher Chuck into a gig, or off to the next appointment. Chuck just loved people and it showed in his music. In 2010, when Chuck released “We Got This”, Industrial Bank hosted a CD release event at our Anacos-

tia branch. You see, Chuck also knew something about financial literacy, didn’t he say, “I ain’t got nothing gainst no credit cards, but cash is the best”. By the way, Chuck’s birthday is the same day as the Bank’s, August 22nd. The turnout was great and the event went overtime because of the number of people who wanted pictures and conversation. When we finally got him outside for pictures with the staff, people came running across Good Hope Road to greet him. Others stopped their cars in an area that was already congested. What was most amazing was watching people at the bus stop literally let their bus pull off so they could come and greet Chuck. He was as popular as Michael Jackson that day, a DC superstar.

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lso hilarious was watching Tom trying to get Chuck off stage when his concert time was up. Chuck loved to play and the more we enjoyed it, the more he wanted to keep playing. I think he would play forever if he could. In 2010, Chuck played outside at the Reagan Building and security was very tight. One heavily armed guard who was assigned to the

“backstage” area looked as tough as nails and kept a mean game face on the whole show. He was the first to humbly greet Chuck when he came off stage. Chuck ended the show 30-45 minutes late and he admonished the crowd to be careful leaving due to the heavy police presence, or “on the premises” as he put it, then he broke into “Run Joe” and played for another 45 minutes. Loved it.

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loved going to see Chuck and needed at least a semiannual “fix”. At his concerts, I liked to go to the back and watch the sea of heads rhythmically rolling up and down to the groove, like waves on the ocean. It was a beautiful sight, trancelike, and if you closed your eyes, there was no other place you’d rather be. I’m devastated we can no longer go see him, but his music will always be with us. We are all different because of you Chuck. Thank you very much. You can rest now, “as long as the beat don’t stop”.

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Remembering the Godfather of Go-Go

Chuck Brown was Go-Go. An ambassador of sound who exemplified all that a celebrity should be, he was DC, he was class and dignity personified, but more than that, Chuck Brown was a gentleman and an unforgettable performer who loved and respected his fans, and NEVER disappointed. He is a DC treasure that will be sorely missed, one who will live on through his music. Industrial Bank honors the life, legacy and music of Mr. Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go – now and forever! Industrial Bank (202) 722-2000 www.industrial-bank.com Member FDIC

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“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

On May 16, 2012, Washington, DC lost one of its most beloved icons, the legendary Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown.


Zane – Publisher/Author How did Chuck personally influence your life? As a child, I remember dancing to his music and feeling great about life whenever it came on the radio. I went to Go-Go and it was a freedom of expression that is unmatched with today’s music. If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? Icon

Remembering

Chuck Brown

Donnell “D-Floyd” Floyd, Familiar Faces Band & Chuck Brown Band We lost our champion. Chuck Brown was the Bob Marley of Go-Go. The things he taught us about being men will last a lifetime!

“The Godfather of Go-Go” 1936 - 2012

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Power – WuTang Crew How did Chuck personally influence your life? Chuck influenced my life in that I was actually a youth who used to play on my Dad’s deejay set and I would cut up Bustin’ Loose… yet I had no clue who he was but I knew exactly what record it was just by looking and that sound was the wave you weren’t popping if you didn’t have that in the crate If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? Classic Rosalind R. Ray - Rosalind R. Ray PLLC How would you describe the impact Chuck Brown had on Go-Go music and the music industry as a whole? Chuck Brown had a tremendous impact on Go-Go music. Maxx Kidd and Chuck Brown were in my opinion the gurus of Go-Go music. Chuck Brown was a seasoned artist who had an appreciation for those who followed his music career and he had nothing but respect for his fans. When he performed you could see in his smile how much he enjoyed entertaining. D.C. trademarked the Go-Go sound with Chuck Brown as the engineer. How did Chuck personally influence your life? I was fortunate at a young age to work with Maxx Kidd on Bladensburg Road in Washington, DC and Chuck Brown was one of Maxx’s dear friends and colleagues, so I had an opportunity to see firsthand the architects of Go-Go do

their thing and I witnessed the makings of Go-Go. Chuck’s ability to make everyone move, no matter what creed or color was influential to me, because it showed me at a young age that music is universal and all people enjoy good sounds. If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? Smooth Cayman Kelly - SIRIUS XM Heart & Soul / Air personality How would you describe the impact Chuck Brown had on Go-Go music and the music industry as a whole? I think that Chuck Brown was an absolute genius with his creation of Go-Go Music. Go-Go is such a unique form of music that embodies many different music forms, including the percussive style of our African ancestor’s rich music culture. There’s also a hint of Jazz, Funk, Latin, Soul, Rhythm and Blues. People have always strived to bridge the gap between adults and youth and this music form was the prescription. How did Chuck personally influence your life? I will always remember Chuck as a “touchable” celebrity. As a kid, I can remember seeing

Chuck around town. I used to think, “Wow, he drives his own limo, he shops in the same Giant we shop at, and he lives in the same complex as my Uncle Thomas.” During my adult years, I have had many opportunities to interact with Chuck and he was such a gracious and kind man who always had nothing but nice things to say. If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? I don’t believe there is one word that can describe such an amazing human being! However, if I made an attempt...I would probably use the word, “Wow!!!” Michael Bivens (New Edition / Bell Biv Devoe) How would you describe the impact Chuck Brown had on Go-Go music and the music industry as a whole? I felt from early days that Chuck was a genius. Whenever R&B shows came to D.C. the promoters brought in Chuck Brown to keep the crowds happy. It was like you had to pay homage to the city by giving up the stage to him first and foremost.

Micheline Bowman – Community/News Coordinator, WTTG Fox 5 News How would you describe the impact Chuck Brown had on Go-Go music and the music industry as a whole? Chuck’s impact was global. He took a musical melody that originated in D.C. and turned it into an international sound that will forever have his name branded to it! How did Chuck personally influence your life? When moved to this area from New Jersey, I had no idea about Go-Go music. I heard of Chuck Brown from “Bustin’ Loose” as a child, but never understood or truly appreciated the music until I went to my first Go-Go and heard him perform live. The age range of fans was amazing. You had the young and the old having a great time repeating words after him. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times and attending various concerts. I booked him for a one on one interview with Ten O’clock News Anchor, Shawn Yancy. He had come to WTTG, Fox 5 for another interview before and each time, always personable, always smiling, always, Mr. Chuck Brown. His title, The Father of Go-Go never made him bigger than life and I respected that he always took time to speak, take a photo and most importantly say thank you. If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? Timeless Arthur “Maniac”McCloud – DJ How would you describe the impact Chuck Brown had on Go-Go music and the music industry as a whole? Simplistically put, Chuck Brown is the originator/founder of the Go-Go sound. He laid the foundation of this genre and sound period. Chuck was the vehicle that gave Go-Go its spark and brought it to the forefront despite national or international popularity. If you could describe Chuck Brown in one word, what would it be? Unparalleled

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Chuck Brown Supplement