More Than an Icon, Brown Was a D.C. Institution

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  • A vigil was held on Chuck Brown Way in front of the legendary Howard Theatre Wednesday night to honor go-go legend Chuck Brown, who died at Johns Hopkins University Hospital earlier in the day after a battle with pneumonia. He was 75.

    As unconfirmed rumors started in the afternoon that Brown had died, an attempt to check his official website jailed because it had been shut down, the first sign that it was more than just a rumor.

    The “Godfather of Go-Go,” as Brown was known, canceled a scheduled performance at the Howard Theatre last month after he was hospitalized for treatment of fatigue and joint pain.

    It was the first concert at the newly reopened theater to sell out.

    Brown’s musical career began in the 1960s playing guitar with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm, joining Los Latinos in 1965. At the time of his death he was still performing music today and was well known in the Washington, DC area. Brown’s early hits include “I Need Some Money” and “Bustin’ Loose”. “Bustin’ Loose” has been adopted by the Washington Nationals baseball team as its home run celebration song, and was interpolated by Nelly for his 2002 number one hit “Hot in Herre.” Brown also recorded go-go covers of early jazz and blues songs, such as “Go-Go Swing” Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing If Ain’t Got That Swing”, “Moody’s Mood for Love”, Johnny Mercer’s “Midnight Sun”, Louis Jordan’s “Run Joe”, and T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”.

    Brown’s daughter, Cherita Whiting, told The Washington Post last month that Brown’s illness was not “life-threatening” and that “he’s just getting some much-needed rest.”

    She was hugged and comforted by friends, fellow musicians and strangers alike, including fellow go-go singer Greg “Sugar Bear” Elliott.
    The Howard concert had been rescheduled for June 29 and the theater said then that it would honor all tickets and that refunds were available wherever tickets were purchased.

    Brown posted on his Facebook page that doctors had been urging him since March to get some rest. He canceled an appearance during the CIAA tournament in April, then the Howard concert.

    “I’m still in recovery mode, but doing better and looking forward to partying with ya’ll again soon! I’m grateful for all the well wishes and kind notes — there’s no love like DC love!” Brown posted.

    His death was a shock to Washingtonians and self-professed “go-go heads” who were absolutely convinced Brown would recover.

    “This is something. It’s gonna shut a lot of us down,” said D.J.Rico, a native Washingtonian and longtime D.C. deejay and close friend of Brown’s.

    “This is more than tough,” said Rico, of WMMJ 102.3-FM, the D.C. home of the Tom Joyner Moring Show, said on air after his afternoon “Traffic Jam” show.

    “I could call Chuck when I wanted to call Chuck, see Chuck when I want to see Chuck. That’s my pops. He’d call and say, ‘Hey, son, I’m in the car and I’m listening to you,’ or ‘I’m home with the grandkids. They’re driving me crazy, but I can hear you.‘ “He’d call just to say ‘what’s up?’ There’d be nothing going on and he’d just call. Chuck is irreplaceable.”

    Singer Raheem DeVaughn, who was featured on Brown’s next to last album and performed with Brown at D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s inaugural party, told the station he considered Brown “one of the best live performers ever” and that he admired Brown’s innovation and his commitment to his family.

    Throughout the afternoon

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