I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the surrounding suburbs, privy to the rich culture of my hometown known as “Chocolate City”. Anyone who was anyone knew of all the great things that hailed from Chocolate City—Ben’s Chili Bowl, the National monument, the historic Lincoln Theater, and Chuck Brown, the creator of what our town calls go-go music.
Chuck Brown was our national treasure. He came onto the scene in the 1960s as a blues and jazz player with groups like Jerry Butler and the Earls of Rhythm and Los Latinos before forming Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers . The pulsing, percussion-heavy thump of go-go music rightly sprang forth from a man who was known for his deep booming voice, seemingly unending arsenal of energy, and amazing musicianship which allowed him to master almost any instrument he lay his hands on.
Chuck Brown made go-go music international. His sound inspired artists like Jill Scott and her hit “It’s Love”, Nelly’s “Hot in Here”, Amerie and a host of other artists who couldn’t get enough of the go-go sound. Instrumentalist Brian Culbertson recently shared in a Sound Check interview earlier this week, the day before Chuck Brown’s passing, that he was inspired by Chuck Brown in his college days in the 90s when he was in a band covering Chuck Brown’s hit “Bustin’ Loose’. When he had the opportunity to work with Chuck Brown on the tune “Feelin’ It”, he said it was like a party in the studio. Chuck Brown lit up every space he entered. And he did it with class, high energy, and positivity.
When Chuck Brown was nominated for a Grammy award last year for the first time in his 50 year career, he humbly told SoulTrain.com that he didn’t care if he won or not, he was just happy to be recognized. At 75 years old, he was still putting out music, collaborating with his idols and some who considered him an idol. Chuck Brown is a legend, not because he was in the business for such a long time, but, because everything he did, he did with a touch of soul that could not be replicated. He was one in a million and we were so very lucky to have him grace our horizon.
-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman