The Heart and Soul of DC
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Y’all! It’s a sad, sad day – the legendary, Godfather of go-go, the one and only, Chuck Brown has passed away.
“What is go-go,” my co-worker questioned.
My other co-worker, a DC native said, “you can’t explain it. You just gotta hear it.”
And then he sent him some links to Chuck songs, so he could be in the know.
And that’s true, isn’t it? You can’t explain go-go to anyone – it’s call and response, and percussion heavy, and the pocket, and it goes and goes. You can try to tell folks, but you just have to let them hear it for themselves. Experience it up close and live for themselves. Feel the beat, find the rhythm and move to it themselves.
Having grown up in the DC Metro urrea, go-go music was always just there. You couldn’t escape it even if you tried. It was played on the radio and on street corners. Blasted from cars in the summer. And it was more than music, it was a culture. It was DC. How we defined ourselves. And what we took away when we went out of town or to college. It was Madness shirts. And Parasucos. It was tapes that you bought on the corner and played out, over and over again. It was It Don’t Mean a Thing. And Bustin’ Loose. And Doin’ the Butt. And Run Joe. And Thug Passion. And Work the Walls. And Holy Ghost. And Take Me Out to See Junkyard. It was sweaty basements. And the Ibex. And the Black Hole. And Gonzaga. Or Dematha. It was summer festivals. And Georgia Avenue Day. It was shootings and foolishness. It was danger. It was alive. And magnetic. And magical.
I don’t care what part of the DC Metro you are from, at some point in you life you have danced to some go-go music somewhere in this city – from the Hilton to the 9:30 Club to a backyard barbeque – you beat your feet, nodded your head, swayed your hips, sang some lyrics.
And it was Chuck Brown who gave us that. Who planted a musical tree that would have several branches, but the same root.
It didn’t matter that go-go never “took off” or became popular or understood or appreciated across the nation, because it was ours. In a city, (well a small swampy town really) the Nation’s Capital, where people came from all over to make laws and policies for the entire nation, where we had to fight for home rule, where we proudly declared ourselves as THE Chocolate City, where we were the seat of power and felt powerless at the same time, we had all eyes on us but felt simultaneously forgotten and ignored, where we can’t even have representation in Congress, we had something that belonged solely to us. We had our own rhythms.
Our own language.
Our own dances.
Our own style.
Our own groove.
We had our own star.
Chuck Brown was a rare breed in the sense that he was a legend and yet humble and down to earth at the same time. My co-worker said he ran into him a couple years ago at the eyeglass store and they just chatted. And lots of people have these stories about how kind, friendly, inviting he was. There was not controversy or drama that surrounded him. And it seems that he never lost favor with his fans in the same way that some artists do. No, folks were loyal, diehards, could see him perform any day, any time, anywhere. And he was the kind of performer who always sold out shows and always gave the audience his best.
And what the audience gave back was love. Pure, unconditional, palpable, love.
Other people might not quite understand, but this city loves them some Chuck Brown because he crafted and gave us a love letter with just the right tempo, just the right sweetness, and just the right spirit.
He may be gone, but he gave us his soul.
And we will forever be grateful.
You can just watch a whole show!