The most important question about summers in Richmond has little to do with heat or humidity. People want to know: “When is Chuck Brown coming?” The septuagenarian guitarist, the man who was fundamentally responsible for creating a genre of R&B known as go-go, was a regular attraction in the city, where he lived as a young boy and did time, back in the day.
Brown, 75, passed away last week in Washington from complications due to pneumonia.
He was known for his sharp attire, relaxed demeanor and blistering funk songs like “Bustin’ Loose,” “Money” and “Back It On Up (Sho’ Ya Right)” His last show in Richmond was in February of this year at the Hat Factory, the perfect venue for a man who was rarely seen without his topper.
Another venue that welcomed him was Brown’s Island, where he performed several times, including at the Folk Festival. Brown claimed in a recent interview that a state official once told him that the artificial land mass was named after him. When you consider the large crowds he drew when he performed there, it’d be pointless to dispute the notion. Wherever he performed, his shows were very similar, right down to the green vest he loved to wear. But it didn’t matter. Everyone likes to hear their favorite songs, the way they remembered them, over and over.
“Go-go, the term itself,” he explained to Style Weekly last year, “the music was inspired by African and Latin music. Go-go came from me, I started to call the music go-go, because they had go-go clubs and go-go girls, and go-go dances and all you know, and this new concept of music I created, I decided to call that go-go music because we don’t stop anymore.”
The Godfather is gone, and summer just won’t be the same around here.