Chuck Brown, one of Washington DC’s most prominent musicians and a mainstay of the Go-go music scene, passed away on May 16th at the age of 75. Brown had been hospitalized since April for pneumonia.
Brown was credited as the “Godfather of Go-go,” a subgenre of funk and R&B that enjoyed popularity in Washington DC from the late 60s to the early 80s. While go-go music never found a large audience outside of the DC metropolitan area, Brown did experience chart success during his decades-long career. Brown and his group The Soul Searchers had their biggest hit in 1979 when their song “Bustin’ Loose” topped the R&B charts for four weeks. “Bustin’ Loose” was also notably sampled in Nelly’s smash hit “Hot in Herre” in 2002.
Brown came from extremely humble origins, working odd jobs at a young age. In his teens, Brown became caught up in a some criminal activities. Originally incarcerated for aggravated assault, Brown was eventually charged with murder after the man he attacked died in hospital care. While in prison, Brown reportedly traded a few cartons of cigarettes for his first guitar.
While popular success would prove fleeting for Brown and Go-go music at large, he continued to have a vital career. Brown scored his first GRAMMY award nomination in 2011 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals with Jill Scott and Marcus Miller for the song “Love.”
Listen to Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” below.