He was praised the way he played.
Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, was known for concerts that went on anywhere from 2-4 hours or, as one of his songs said, “until the cops come knockin’,” and his viewing Tuesday ran all day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the recently reopened Howard Theatre.
Before the doors of the theater opened, the lines were already around the corner, made all the more poignant by this week’s sizzling heat with temperatures into the 90s and heat advisories issued for the city. Some people, tweeting from the line, asked readers to bring water to the mourners.
A memorial service will be held for Brown, who died on May 16 at age 75 after a battle with pneumonia, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. Flags on all city government buildings will fly at half-staff from sunup to sundown on Thursday.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Brown's family announced together that in lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Chuck Brown Foundation. According to its website, the foundation, which is in the process of applying for nonprofit status, was intended to support education, help the homeless and the formerly incarcerated get back on track.
Crowds also lined the route as the procession bearing Brown’s gold and copper-colored casket neared the theater at 7th Street and Chuck Brown Way NW.
Inside, standing next to Brown’s open casket, Gray called Brown “one of the greatest assets the city has ever had.”
“He loved everybody,” Brown’s stepdaughter, KK Brown, told The Washington Post as she stood outside greeting the fans. She said that Brown “would be crying” to see the throngs that have turned out to pay their respects.
An average of 20 people per minute passed through the theater by midday, as a mix of Brown’s jazz ballads played, according to a headcount by The Post. Vendors did a brisk business outside the theater, selling t-shirts and calendars bearing Brown’s image and they expect to do the same at the memorial service on Thursday.
As D.C. Council member Marion Barry walked out of the theater, a television cameraman asked the former mayor, “How’d the body look?”
“Man, fabulous,” Barry said. “Chuck was as big in death as he was in life.”