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Godfather of Go-Go Music Dies

Guitarist Chuck Brown of the U.S. performs on the final day of the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival at Pigeon Island. (File Photo - May 8, 2011)

The so-called “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown died Wednesday (5/16) after suffering from pneumonia at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He was 75. Brown was a music legend among fans in the nation’s capital.

Singer and guitarist Chuck Brown, along with his band The Soul Searchers, pioneered Washington’s Go-Go movement in the 1970s. They turned it into a citywide phenomenon by blending funk with R&B, Latin, soul and dance hall music. The band’s driving percussion beats were synchronized with Brown’s commanding vocals, while the horn-section provided tight, jazzy solos.

Chuck Brown, who moved to Washington from his native North Carolina, once said he was influenced by the sounds and fast beats he heard on the streets, as well as jazz and gospel. Brown defined Go-Go as “a music that continues on and on, a call and response communication with the audience.”

Brown launched his career playing guitar with Jerry Butler and the Earls of Rhythm. He was a member of the band Los Latinos before forming his own group The Soul Searchers in 1966. After gaining a steady local following, they released their debut album, “We The People” in 1972. Audiences continued to grow after the release of their hit single, “Bustin’ Loose.”

“Bustin’ Loose” became the first and only Top 40 hit for Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, although it did reach Number One on the R&B chart. Over the next three decades, the group recorded more than a dozen albums, culminating with their first Grammy nomination for the song “Love” from “We Got This.” The honor took Brown by surprise. He said, “After some 40 years in the business, running around and singing in different parts of the world, I never thought it would be like this.”

News of Brown’s death spread quickly throughout Washington, DC and beyond. Washington Mayor Vincent Gray called Go-Go music “DC’s very own unique contribution to the world of pop music.” He said the city would have been a different place without Chuck Brown.

“The Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown died May 16 at age 75.