Washington, D.C., got a lot less funkier this week with the passing of local musical legend and Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown.
Indeed, in a city often sharply divided along class, racial and partisan lines, Brown’s infectious grooves and gravely voice bridged every difference between Washingtonians.
For instance, as news broke of Brown’s passing, Doug Heye, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (Va.) deputy chief of staff, tweeted, “Chuck Brown, rest in peace. Glad I saw him live and that I bought Bustin’ Loose on 45 when I was a kid. #WindMeUp.”
“Chuck Brown’s funky go-go beat put hometown D.C. on the map, rescuing forever our town from its stolid, gray ‘government town’ image and giving the District of Columbia an identity of its very own. How many cities in this country have their own sound?” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement Thursday.
“Music comes and most music goes, but Chuck’s go-go goes on from generation to generation with undiminished popularity. You hear it and if you can move, you do. His beat commands you to dance, and go-go means what it says, go and do not stop!” she added.
Dan Ronayne, a Washington area native who has worked in GOP politics, points to Brown’s legendary December 2005 show with James Brown at the 9:30 Club as one of his favorite memories of the Godfather.
There were a “lot of VIP transplants to D.C. … with no idea who Chuck Brown was. Listening to them walk out [after the show] wondering aloud if they like Chuck more than James was one of my proudest townie moments,” Ronayne said.
Brown, 75, passed away Wednesday after a lengthy bout of pneumonia, sending shockwaves through a city that revered him.
Best known for songs like “Bustin’ Loose,” “Wind Me Up” and “Go-Go Swing,” over his 40 year career Brown created a unique version of funk that defined the sound of the District.
“Today is a very sad day for music lovers the world over, but especially in the District of Columbia. Without Chuck Brown, the world — and our city — will be a different place,” Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement.
Brown’s musical forays into politics were rare but memorable, including “We the People,” the title track from Brown’s band The Soul Searchers in 1972.
An impersonator of former President George W. Bush also makes an appearance in the video for Brown’s 2007 single “The Party Roll,” in which the president pleads with the Godfather for help:
“It’s a matter of national security!” faux Dubya begs.
“Gas prices are high, approval ratings are low and I’m in the middle of an unpopular war and Condi keeps eyeing me,” the faux Bush laments. “We’re gonna throw a party to throw peoples’ minds off all these things. But Chuck, have you ever been to a White House party? Lame. Lame-o … you can show them how to party!”
For good measure, the real George Clinton and former Mayor Marion Barry help show them how to party.