Charles Louis "Chuck" Brown (August 22, 1936 - May 16, 2012) was an American guitarist and singer who is affectionately called "the Godfather of Go-go". Go-go is a subgenre of funk music developed in and around Washington, D.C. in the mid and late 1970s. While its musical classification, influences, and origins are debated, Brown is regarded as the fundamental force behind the creation of go-go music.
Early life: 1936-1963:
Charles Louis Brown was born on August 22, 1936 in Gaston, North Carolina. Brown's mother, Lyla Brown, was a housekeeper, and his father, Albert Louis Moody, was a United States Marine. Brown's father, however, was not present in his life, and Brown lived in poverty. When Chuck Brown was six years old, he moved to Washington, DC in 1942, and at 15 he started to live on the streets. He did not graduate high school; Brown quit school and decided to perform odd jobs to make money, including shining shoes.
In the 1950s, Brown was convicted of murder and served eight years in Lorton Correctional Complex. At first, the case was tried as aggravated assault; however, it was moved up to murder once the victim died. Brown stated that his actions were in self-defense. In prison, he traded cigarettes for a guitar, which was how his love for the instrument began. When Brown completed his sentence, he moved back to Washington, DC and worked as a truck driver, a bricklayer, and a sparring partner at multiple boxing gyms. He also started to perform at parties throughout the area; however, he could not play at venues that served liquor, because his parole officer would not allow it.
Chuck Brown died on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital of multiple organ failure, including heart failure. He was 75 years old. Several weeks prior to his death, he had postponed and canceled shows due to hospitalization for pneumonia. His interment was at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf, Maryland.
"Chuck Brown was like the Washington Monument. He was like Ben's Chili Bowl. He was the big chair. He was all of that. Chuck Brown was Washington, DC ... People feel you when it's genuine, and Chuck was always that."
Donnie Simpson, Washington, DC radio and television personality
Brown is called the "Godfather of Go-Go" and was considered a local legend in Washington, DC. Darryl Brooks, a local promoter who worked with Chuck Brown during his career, stated, "He was a symbol of D.C. manhood, back in the day, because of the authority that he spoke with. He just spoke from a perspective that black men could understand." Andre Johnson, the leader of the go-go band Rare Essence, said that Chuck Brown "influenced generations of people--not just one--a few generations of musicians around here." Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray said Brown was "Go-go's creator and, arguably, its most legendary artist."