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Chuck Brown: Tiny Desk Concert
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Wed, 16 May 2012 16:00:00 -0400
Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go music, died Wednesday. In 2010, he brought his full band to the NPR Music office — and put on a party like no one else.
The name Chuck Brown might not mean a whole lot to people outside the Washington, D.C., area. That would be their loss. In D.C., Brown is widely known, even revered, as the Godfather of Go-Go, a title he's held since the late '70s. Though he started out as a jazz guitarist, Brown invented go-go, a style that incorporates funk, jazz, R&B, hip-hop and dancehall, and has mostly stuck with it ever since.
No one in D.C. can really explain why go-go hasn't traveled beyond the city's environs — we love it here, it's all over our commercial R&B and hip-hop radio stations and, at least when I was in high school, a go-go in a school's gym was the most packed party of the weekend. Chuck Brown is a local hero. A few days after he played our offices, Brown and his whole band played at the Redskins' stadium for the halftime show.
So to have Brown play a corner of our office — not a 90,000-capacity football stadium — was like a dream come true for a lot of NPR staffers. Sweat started pouring immediately, between the 11 musicians (that's congas and a stripped-down kit; saxophone, trumpet and trombone; two backup singers and a rapper) and all the go-go-heads in our building.
It's not like the band was going to slow down, though. It played "Bustin' Loose," which got everyone singing the refrain: "Gimmethebridgenow, gimmethebridgenow." The song has been a hit in D.C. since 1979, so nobody was standing still. The crowd was yelling out requests, too: "Chuck Baby" and "Run Joe," a go-go cover of the Louis Jordan song. Go-go is based on a syncopated beat and the use of congas in addition to drums. A lot of it is call-and-response, some of which was led by Brown (his web address is in fact windmeupchuck.com).
Go-go is mostly about the groove, though, and Chuck Brown just settles in and leans back. He showed up looking like a million bucks in a vest, Dior shades and his signature hat, and then he did what he does best — get the crowd on his side and hand its members something to dance to.
This story originally ran on Sept. 28, 2010.
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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