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Chuck Brown, 'Go-Go' Funk Pioneer, Dies

May 16, 2012
Originally published on May 16, 2012 5:34 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, we remember Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUSTIN' LOOSE")

SIEGEL: He died today at the age of 75. Brown created the genre of music known as go-go in 1970's Washington, D.C. For more than three decades, he was its most noted and charismatic figure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUSTIN' LOOSE")

CHUCK BROWN: (Singing) Keep what you got until you get what you need, y'all.

SIEGEL: While go-go never gained widespread popularity, the percussive, heavy funk music maintained a strong presence in the nation's capital. As Brown told NPR in 2007, his signature sound was something best experienced live.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BROWN: You have really get into it and realize that the audience participation - the crowd response is what's happening. And we'll just play and play and just keep going. We won't stop.

SIEGEL: Brown achieved the most success with the song "Bustin' Loose" with his group The Soul Searchers. It's been four weeks atop the R&B singles chart in 1978.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUSTIN' LOOSE")

BROWN: (Singing) Talking about busting loose, y'all. Busting loose to my love jones. Busting loose to each his own.

SIEGEL: When it came to writing music, Brown says it was always about the groove.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BROWN: I'm not what you might call a lyric writer. I write hooks and try to make people work with the audience. And the funky tracks, that's what you need.

SIEGEL: Chuck Brown continued to perform late into his life. In Washington, he was a legend. The city even designated a street in his honor. But for all the attention he received, Brown remained humble.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BROWN: Everybody called me the godfather. I didn't designate that name for myself, you know? It came from the fans. They're the boss, the fans and the radio.

SIEGEL: And the name stuck. Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go, died today at the age of 75.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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