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Chuck Brown, pioneer of ‘go-go’ funk music, dies
Brown, widely acclaimed as the “Godfather of go-go” for his pioneering sound, died Wednesday at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. Hospital spokesman Gary Stephenson confirmed Brown had died after a hospital stay that began April 18.
Thanks to Brown and his deep, gravelly voice, go-go music was uniquely identified with Washington. That’s where he continued to play the city’s club circuit to a loyal audience late in life.
Mayor Vincent Gray said the nation’s capital will be a different place without him. Mournful admirers of the musician were called Wednesday evening to an impromptu candlelight vigil in Washington, where a sound truck was to blast a special Chuck Brown music mix to the crowd before a prayer session for him.
“Go-go is D.C.’s very own unique contribution to the world of pop music,” he said. “Today is a very sad day for music lovers the world over.”
In 2007 Brown told The Associated Press that go-go was influenced by sounds and fast beats he heard early in life, growing up in North Carolina and Virginia, combined with his experience later, playing with a Latin band.
“Go-go is a music that continues on and on, and it’s a call and response communication with the audience,” Brown said.
Go-go was heavy on percussion with drummers as lead players, accented by guitar riffs, keyboards and horns. Sometimes the musicians would play for two or three hours without stopping. In between tunes, Brown would keep the thunk of percussion going and talk to the crowd.
Brown’s hit “Bustin’ Loose” with his group, the Soul Searchers, helped define go-go’s sound. It spent several weeks atop the R&B chart in 1979. Rapper Nelly later sampled Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” in 2002 for his massive hit “Hot in Herre,” which won Nelly a Grammy.
Brown didn’t get credit at first, though, and “had to go through some legalities to get it right, but we knew, once we heard the song, that’s Chuck Brown,” said Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, lead singer of the go-go band EU (Experience Unlimited.)
Brown told the AP he admired such artists.
“Go-Go had some influence on rap because a lot of rap musicians come to my shows,” he said. “Some of them were students at Howard University. People like Puff Daddy, he’s been to see us when he was a young Howard University student.”
Spike Lee, a fan of Brown‘s, used go-go for his movie “School Daze.”
“Chuck Brown Will Always Be `Bustin’ Loose’ _ the Godfather of Go-Go,” Lee said through a spokeswoman.
By Brahma Chellaney
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