*By Wednesday afternoon the news had spread about the passing of 75 year old R&B legend Chuck Brown, who formulated the pulsating beats known as “go-go” music. It’s rhythmic phrasings are a mix of calypso, funk, soul, jazz, dance hall and all else that makes for indescribable feel good music. If you’re cool enough to know that Washington, D. C. has two nicknames, then you know that one of them is “Chocolate City,” the birthplace of go-go. It was there in our nation’s capitol that the Chuck Brown sound resonated at clubs, parks and festivals. Chuck’s early days date back to the 1960’s. His discography ranges from 1972 to 2010, but it was 1979’s recording of “Busting Loose” (on Source Records) that put Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers on the map. Retired music industry vet Logan Westbrooks was the president of Source Records at the time when Chuck was signed.
Logan Westbrooks to EURweb: “Chuck Brown was the first artist signed to Source Records and Busting Loose was the first release and it went gold! Chuck Brown and that song firmly established Source Records and became the signature of Source Records.”
Not only did Chuck Brown’s “Busting Loose” establish a hit back then, it forged the trans-cultural spine of one of hip hop’s biggest hits. Twenty three years later Nelly sampled it for his mega hit “Hot In Herre” in 2002. Other songs such as “I Need Some Money” and Chuck’s go-go jazz renditions like “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” & “Moody’s Mood for Love” considerably added to his repertoire. Former Source Records President & CEO Logan Westbrooks further comments on what will become of the Chuck Brown legacy.
Logan Westbrooks to EURweb.com: “The creator and artist of go-go music is no longer with us in person but his genius will live on forever. I am grateful for him and his talent, and thankful that our pathways crossed and extended into a lifelong relationship.”
For this EURweb reporter (turned jazz artist), what trumped the Chuck Brown experience were his live shows. Though raised in D.C., I only recently witnessed Chuck in concert for three years (2009-2011) on the Tom Joyner cruise, aka The Fantastic Voyage. It was trance like enough to be on a vessel among other slated performers such as Frankie Beverly, Babyface, Charlie Wilson, Fantasia, Ledisi, Angie Stone and so many more, but having to choose which one to see during my downtime was the sweet side of torment. One night, I decided to pay a visit to my homeboy Chuck Brown in the Bolero Lounge. Since I had moved from D.C. before I was old enough to go to clubs, and since I liked the song Busting Loose, why not just step into the Chuck Brown show for just a few minutes. One hour and a half later, I had not moved from my spot, except to realize that I should probably put my purse down and get something to drink because I was soaking wet, from giggling, gyrating and being enraptured in the go-go swing! The conga’s played, the horns accentuated with precision, then Chuck or his daughter would spice it up with vocals or a rap. Add to that a smokin’ keyboardist hunched over on one side of the stage and Sweet Cherie on the opposite side also stroking the ivories. Meanwhile Chuck in his classic fedora was strumming on a blond Gibson guitar ES-335, that he is said to have called ‘Blondie.’ This 70 year old man had orchestrated a jam packed room of patrons into a carefree state of “go-go” bliss with a rhythm and never let you go. For the next two years I was fortunate enough to make the talent line up on the Tom Joyner cruise and the Chuck Brown show made my agenda.
My favorite was Chuck Brown’s version of Moody’s Mood For Love. It was jazzy, funky, cool and smooth. I told Chuck at an autograph session on board that I’d really love to sing that with him. He replied in that all too familiar warm and raspy voice; “Yeah, Jazzy Rita, sounds like a good idea!” One night he hinted for me to come up on stage, but I shied away and just kept dancing, there were so many singers on board and so many stars in the house. Fortunately my music director Willie Daniels captured my precious and few moments with Chuck. What he did to a crowd was nothing short of magical. As the saying goes; ‘Guess you had to be there.’
Chuck Brown also influenced many bands such as EU, which stands for Experience Unlimited. Their break out hit was “Da Butt” from Spike Lee’s School Daze movie in 1988. Among Mr. Brown’s numerous career achievements, he was honored by the National Symphony Orchestra with a Legends of Washington Music award and he was named one of the top people to have influenced Washington, D.C. in the past 45 years. A city block on 7th Street in Northwest Washington, DC between Florida Avenue and T Street was renamed “Chuck Brown Way.” Mr. Chuck Brown was born in Gaston, North Carolina on August 22, 1936 and succumbed May 16, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Chuck Brown’s last album was released in 2010 and earned him a Grammy nomination. It featured Jill Scott, Marcus Miller and his amazing band. For more on the legendary godfather of go-go, visit his official website at http://windmeupchuck.com/.
Witness Chuck Brown in this EURweb Exclusive video from Jazzy Rita’s personal files.
To the late Chuck Brown; what a loss, what a life, what a party, what a ride! Guess it was time to go-go, thankfully we’ve been left with a go-go swing that should never be forgotten.