Chuck Brown, widely dubbed the “Godfather of go-go” died Wednesday at 75 after being hospitalized for pneumonia earlier this month, the Washington Post reported.
Go-go, a percussion-driven fusion of R&B and funk, first became wildly popular in the Washington, D.C. area in the mid-1970s, and spread modestly to a few other parts of the country. It was Brown’s signature sound, and became the thematic music of live performers who took after him. It often features a call-and-response component as well as beats that linked songs so continuously that bands would play long into the night — as anyone who’s ever partied at a Howard University’s homecoming can attest.
“The music just goes and goes,” the gravelly-voiced Brown once told the Post, explaining the genre’s name.
Born in Gaston, N.C. in 1936, he began performing with soul music singer Jerry Butler, but two years later formed the Soul Searchers. He wound up creating his own sound, which caught on in the heyday of mid- to late 70s disco and funk.
One of the go-go’s early hits was 1978’s “Bustin’ Loose,” which featured Brown and his Soul Searchers band. Through the 1980s “We Need Some Money,” “Go-Go Swing” and “Run Joe” became local dancefloor staples and kept Brown and his sound in high demand. Many of his songs were later sampled by hip-hop artists like Eric B. and Rakim, Public Enemy and most notably Nelly on his 2002 hit “Hot in Herre.”
In 2011, Brown was recognized with a Grammy for his collaboration with singer Jill Scott, “Love.”