Chuck Brown Winds It Up

I was silenced with sadness today when my sister called to say, Chuck Brown had passed away at the age of 75. Chuck and his go-go music runs deep within the veins of Washingtonians. We grew up on his sound. And while the rest of the world never fully embraced it, we claimed it as our own and crowned him the Godfather.

There are a few things that distinctly define the DMV (DC, MD, VA), like blue crabs, cherry blossoms, the Redskins, and go-go. Chuck was DC’s own, long standing celebrity for over 40 years. Cameras didn’t follow him, but his fans did. Performing three times a week, Chuck enjoyed an immensely loyal following. His popularity among African-Americans rivaled that of any local politician. If Chuck had decided to run for mayor, he’d have won by a landslide.

Back in the day, I spent many Wednesday nights at the Maverick Room on Rhode Island Avenue chanting, “Wind me up Chuck.” Chuck was creating magic between those four walls and you came back each week for another taste. Something about this funk-filled, call and response music spoke to us and captured the hearts of youth in DC.

Even as an adult I’d find my way every summer to an outdoor venue in New York to have Chuck wind me up, one more time. The last time I saw chuck was at the Lincoln Center in the summer of 2008. Any and every person who’d lived in DC or went to Howard came out. I was there with two friends from DC, trying to recapture the magic we called go-go. You see, in order to truly understand go-go, YOU HAVE TO BE THERE among the crowd. It's not the same at home on the radio or on your ipod. You have to experience it LIVE to become a true fan. Go-go is more than music. It is a feeling. It is a place. It's a state of mind. It is a dance. It is a cult.

Newer and younger bands like EU, Trouble Funk and Rare Essence would come along emulating Chuck's sound. He opened his arms and embraced these musicians, taking them under his wing, mentoring them and many times sharing the stage with them. I’m sure Chuck was thinking about his legacy and how his music would live long after he’d passed away.

Chuck gave his music and his self to DC. He will be sorely missed by his fans. My sister was right. It is a sad day in DC. And elsewhere, if you know anything about Chuck Brown. It's a loss for the Brown Family and the entire city.

Thank you, Chuck Brown, for so many fun and memorable nights at the go-go. What can I say? You had to be there!

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