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Chuck Brown, the gravelly voiced bandleader who capitalized on funk’s percussive pulse to create go-go, the genre of music that has soundtracked life in black Washington for more than three decades, died May 16 at the Johns Hopkins University hospital in Baltimore. He was 75.
The death, from complications from sepsis, was confirmed by his manager, Tom Goldfogle.Mr. Brown had been hospitalized for pneumonia.
Known as the “Godfather of Go-Go,” the performer, singer, guitarist and songwriter developed his commanding brand of funk in the mid-1970s to compete with the dominance of disco.
Like a DJ blending records, Mr. Brown used nonstop percussion to stitch songs together and keep the crowd on the dance floor, resulting in marathon performances that went deep into the night. Mr. Brown said the style got its name because “the music just goes and goes.”
In addition to being go-go’s principal architect, Mr. Brown remained the genre’s most charismatic figure. On stage, his spirited call-and-response routines became a hallmark of the music, reinforcing a sense of community that allowed the scene to thrive. As go-go became a point of pride for black Washingtonians, Mr. Brown became one of the city’s most recognizable figures.
“No single type of music has been more identified with Washington than go-go, and no one has loomed so large within it as Chuck Brown,” former Washington Post pop music critic Richard Harrington wrote in 2001.