Friday, May 18, 2012
Chuck Brown Took Us to the Go Go
Y’all didn’t think I was gonna let Chuck Brown’s passing go without a tribute, did ya? I might have been raised in Delaware, but look to the right and check out where I was born. Anyway, Go Go has had its admirers all up and down the East Coast and eventually, the world.
I’ve always known that Go Go has influenced music outside the D.C. area, even though it is an indigenous Chocolate City creation. But after listening to tributes paid to Brown on various radio stations, I’m even more convinced.
What I didn’t realize is how heavily some groups have used the Go Go sound —think, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Salt & Pepper, Kurtis Blow, Beyoncé, Jill Scott, and on and on.
Here's the way Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times describes Go Go: “Featuring remarkable Afro-Cuban polyrhythms via pounding congas and rototoms, punctuated bursts of brass and Brown shouting out call-and-response phrases alongside grooves that extended many songs to over eight minutes long — and, more importantly, almost two or three times that in a live setting.”
Yes, Brown knew how to get a party started and keep it going all night long. There’s no other music that makes me want to get up and dance as much as Go Go. I’m sure it's my love of Latin and African music that draws me to Go Go, since by Chuck’s own admission, he uses the Latin and African percussion sounds as a foundation for his invention.
After doing several stints in prison for robbery, Brown started working as a professional musician in the early 1960s with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm. In 1965, he joined the group Los Latinos, a band that played Top 40 music with a Latin flavor.
Brown, born Charles Louis Brown in Gaston, N.C., on Aug. 22, 1936, was raised in poverty by his mother, Lyla Louise Brown, a housekeeper. He never knew his father. Brown remembers: “We’d go to somebody’s house and [my mother] would say, ‘Please feed my child. Don’t worry about me. Just feed my child.’”
He may have been born poor, but he lived a rich, music-filled life that made the world of music a whole lot spicier. Thank you Godfather – and may you rest in peace.
Check out this precious clip from Brown’s interview at the National Visionary Leadership Project, an organization co-founded by Camille O. Cosby and Renee Poussaint.
Here’s “Bustin' Loose" -- Chuck's most popular hit: