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RIP Chuck Brown
May 16, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Chuck Brown: DC Legend, Godfather of Go-Go and originator of some of the breakbeats that laid the foundation for hip-hop has passed away. Here's his live set at the 9:30 club from a few years ago. 2, 3, 4
posted by empath (43 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
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Thought he'd never go.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:10 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Amplify at 2:10 PM on May 16, 2012


CB was the perfect local celebrity - lavishly talented, but self-effacing, approachable + with a deep and obvious commitment to the place where he was known and loved best. Even without "Bustin' Loose" and the breakbeats, he'd be remembered.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by KingEdRa at 2:16 PM on May 16, 2012


I saw him on a stage on the mall by the Washington Monument maybe ten years ago. It was a fantastic show.

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posted by peeedro at 2:19 PM on May 16, 2012


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bust loose in peace chuck.
posted by freq at 2:25 PM on May 16, 2012



posted by Smart Dalek at 2:27 PM on May 16, 2012


Uh oh uh oh uh oh
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on May 16, 2012


Chuck Brown was the real deal. He played a range of styles well, he had a great live show and he was a gentleman ambassador for go-go, a genre too often associated here with violence.

The celestial choir'll be chanting, "Wind me up, Chuck!"

aav.
posted by the sobsister at 2:29 PM on May 16, 2012


Yeah, I'm trying to think of a point of comparison for people who don't live in DC for what an important cultural touchstone he was, especially for DC natives and I'm really coming up short.

Growing up in dc is weird, because almost everybody rich and famous in dc came here from somewhere else, and the ones who came from dc left and got rich and famous somewhere else. He was one of the few hometown boys who done good and stayed and built a scene and a community.
posted by empath at 2:39 PM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


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posted by cashman at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2012


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I hadn't heard of him till today. The link on wiki to tracks containing the roach breakbeat is pretty cool.
posted by marienbad at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2012


Also, Damn could RunDmc ever rap. Just love that album.
posted by marienbad at 2:55 PM on May 16, 2012


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A name I hadn't thought of in a long while, but big bummer nonetheless.
posted by p3t3 at 2:56 PM on May 16, 2012


Despite growing up within the reach of WPGC, it took el_lupino, a guy from the Baltimore suburbs, to bring go-go into my life (I was an HFS devotee). I will never forget the Chuck Brown and friends Folklife Festival show that he and I went to in 2000 (because how many go-go shows are there ever going to be on the National Mall?). Everybody was there getting down - it was apparently the best-attended Folklife concert ever - and looking around at the multifarious crowd convinced me that funk music is the key to world peace. Thank you for that, and godspeed, Mr. Brown.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to think of a point of comparison for people who don't live in DC for what an important cultural touchstone he was, especially for DC natives

John Waters comes to mind, and not just because of the hitchhiking thing. He seems to have a similar reputation in terms of graciousness and love for his community.

I expect to hear more go-go than usual walking home. It's a good day to be driving with the windows open and the top down, and go-go is one of the sounds of summer for me now. Thanks, Mr. Brown.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:00 PM on May 16, 2012


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2012


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:15 PM on May 16, 2012


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posted by jindc at 3:17 PM on May 16, 2012


I hate being THAT GUY that doesn't pick up an album by artist until right after they die, but Chuck Brown has been on my "need to check out" list for years. I'm a fan of Trouble Funk, but I never dug deeper into Go-GO and bought something by Chuck. Just watching a few minutes of those live clips and I realize I have been doing myself a great disservice.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:19 PM on May 16, 2012


I'm sorry I never saw him play. RIP.

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posted by oneironaut at 3:21 PM on May 16, 2012


I interviewed Chuck in 2007.

It was my first interview ever. Like literally, I had never spoken to a person before for a magazine or blog or anything. I liked his music a lot, but I wasn't really a gogo connoisseur, so I researched for 24 hours straight before showing up to talk to him. I was so nervous I was losing my mind, because all my research confirmed (like his NPR interview) that he was a little irascible but loved telling long wild stories and reminiscing and expected you to know everything he was talking about. Anyway it was terrifying. I asked my girlfriend at the time what to do and she said "Take two quick shots of tequila" so I did and then dressed up a little and went to meet him, rechecking my minitape recording over and over again to make sure it was working.

I walked into the basement of Bohemian Caverns thinking he would be a little old man or something since I had never seen him live (<--idiot). He was dressed just as you see in those pictures--nice suit, green shoes, sunglasses indoors, carrying his guitar. Like, not for the interview, but because it was fucking tuesday.

It was too dark in the club, so the photographer insisted on shooting us in this old shoe shine/repair place on U street, where somehow Chuck knew EVERYbody. The place was filled with old scrapped shoes and dirty chairs. There was a proprietor, and 2 or 3 old dudes sitting on overturned buckets who lit up like Christmas when he came in and hugged him and asked after a bunch of random people that he pretended to remember. He plopped down in the chair and proceeded to ignore my questions and talk to the shoe guys for 45 minutes, all of which I dutifully recorded on my minitapes.

I couldn't distract him... I was in awe, and scared shitless. Finally I relaxed and just tried to join the conversation as well, asking him whether he'd come to places like this on U as a kid (I knew the answer, he used to walk up and down the street listening to the music in the theaters), so we talked about old times for a while and finally he turned to me and said, "OK man what's your questions?" And I asked about his early musics use of Timbales, which I didn't know how to pronounce, and he corrected me, and then answered that and the hundred other stupid questions I had while I sweated through my shirt but still marveled at what a legitimate goddamn legend he was. Like a real legend, beyond some bullshit marketing proposal or branding strategy. A god, a hearth god, a protector of the city.

The shoe store is gone now, replaced by idontknowwhat, probably a coffeeshop. Now Chuck is gone too. But I still have those tapes. Someday I'll dig them up and relearn everything there is to know about music that I forgot again, and listen, much more carefully, to his memories and his voice.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


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posted by sperose at 3:34 PM on May 16, 2012


Growing up in DC in the 80s, I was a huge fan of Chuck Brown and got to see him live in an hours-long DC Go-Go extravaganza that ain't like nothing else in the world. I just can't listen to If it Ain't Funky without getting a huge smile on my face. RIP, Chuck.
posted by googly at 3:47 PM on May 16, 2012


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posted by fuse theorem at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2012


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I'm of the opinion that it's impossible to have grown up or lived extensively in the DC area for most of the last 30 years without Chuck Brown having some sort of effect on your musical tastes. Bust loose in peace, indeed.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:06 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Beyond go-go was his duet work with the late, lovely Eva Cassidy. RIP CB, and thank you.
posted by headnsouth at 4:09 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


A 1985 SPIN article on go-go, including Chuck Brown.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2012


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posted by soundguy99 at 4:15 PM on May 16, 2012


I think I found out about Chuck Brown through WHFS back in the day.

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posted by needled at 4:18 PM on May 16, 2012


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I have many good friends who grew up in DC in the '80s. When one of them got married, about 6 years ago, Chuck Brown played his wedding. It was amazing. Lemme see, here we go.
posted by gaspode at 4:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess we won't get the annual mid-summer NPR feature on Chuck and Go-Go this year? Bummer.

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posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 PM on May 16, 2012


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The Washington City Paper has a roundup of reactions to Brown's death.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:09 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by shoepal at 6:21 PM on May 16, 2012


I was Music Manager and Promotion Director for the George Washington University radio station (WRGW). It's to my shame I never got to interview him.

Metafilter: Like, not for the interview, but because it was fucking Tuesday.
posted by kinsey at 6:43 PM on May 16, 2012


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(I had no idea our local scene had so many adherents here on the Blue.)
posted by vhsiv at 7:54 PM on May 16, 2012


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If you were somehow doubting Chuck's importance to DC after reading the great comments above, the impromptu vigil on U Street has virtually shut down traffic in that part of the city.
posted by schmod at 7:57 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thievery Corporation, another DC music icon, had some nice words to say about Chuck Brown in that Washington City Paper roundup.
posted by needled at 8:01 PM on May 16, 2012


Wind me up, Chuck. You will be missed.
posted by SenorJaime at 11:11 PM on May 16, 2012


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Jim Vance, long time co-anchor of NBC News4 in DC, was as close to tears last night announcing this as I've ever seen him.

Gimme the bridge now, gimme the bridge now!
posted by imjustsaying at 2:21 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by learnsome at 5:14 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Dano St at 5:16 AM on May 17, 2012


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posted by Cocodrillo at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2012


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