Chuck Brown was born on August 22, 1936, and for the next 75 years of his life, he established himself as a guitarist, singer, and frontman credited with laying the foundations of Go-Go, as a subgenre of funk. The distinct sound developed in Washington D.C. in the 1970s among African American bands and performers. Brown’s career spanned decades, beginning in the 1960s until his demise in 2012. Aside from birthing Go-Go, he also influenced several D.C.-based groups over the years, leaving behind a legacy that transcends generations with its sheer number of achievements. Today his music is kept alive by his former bandmates of The Chuck Brown Band.
Charles Louis Brown was born to Albert Louis Moody, a U.S. Marine, and Lyla Brown, a housekeeper. He grew up in poverty, and his father was largely absent from his life. Brown and his mother moved to Washington D.C. when he was six. At 15, he started living on the streets, eventually quitting high school to work odd jobs in order to earn a living. Unfortunately, Brown fell into a life of crime, and in the late 1950s, he shot a man in self-defense. Initially, he was tried for aggravated assault, but the charge was changed to murder after the victim died. He was found guilty and imprisoned at the Lorton Correctional Complex for eight years.
While in prison, Brown learned to play the guitar, trading lessons for cigarettes. It helped him pass the time and he quickly become a skilled player. Upon his release, Brown returned to Washington D.C. and began playing at various establishments in the metropolitan area. He also worked odd jobs to survive, including bricklaying, driving trucks, and serving as a sparring partner at local boxing gyms. His musical career blossomed in the 1960s when he played with groups like ‘The Earls of Rhythm’ and ‘The Los Latinos’. He became a famous figure in Washington D.C.’s Go-Go scene, with early hits like “Bustin’ Loose” and “We Need Some Money” becoming citywide funk anthems. Brown also mentored other bands like Trouble Funk, Soul Rebels Brass Band, and Experience Unlimited.
Between 1972 and 2010, Brown released 12 studio and seven live albums, and seven compilation albums of Go-Go cover songs. In 2012 Brown contracted pneumonia and was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated, and on May 16, 2012, he passed away. Brown’s family interred his remains at the Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf, Maryland.
Brown receives the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
The 1900 block of the seventh street in Northwest Washington gets renamed ‘Chuck Brown Way.’
Brown receives his first-ever Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for the song “Love” from the 2010 album “We Got This.”
The Chuck Brown Memorial Park is built in Langdon Neighborhood to honor the godfather of Go-Go.
Why We Love Chuck Brown
He invented Go Go
They don’t call him ‘The Godfather of Go Go’ for nothing. Brown pioneered the genre, paving the way for a subgenre of funk that still endures.
He turned his life around
Instead of sinking deeper into a life of crime, Brown chose to turn his life around. His stint in prison didn’t break him. Instead, he became a world-famous musician and a beloved artist.
He was a shining example
Brown’s life story inspired generations of young African Americans who grew up in similar environments. His music influenced others like ‘Soul Rebels Brass Band,’ ‘Junk Yard Band,’ and ‘Rare Essence.’ we cannot quantify the impact he made as an artist and a person.
5 Surprising Facts
Nelly sampled his music
Rapper Nelly sampled some of Brown’s music in his hit song “Hot In Herre.”
He has a baseball theme song
Brown’s song “Bustin’ Loose” is the Washington Nationals home run celebration song.
He got a TV show intro song
Brown performed the theme song for “The Sinbad Show.”
He only played the Gibson guitar
Brown and his signature Gibson guitar were inseparable; he wouldn’t play on anything else.
He has a statue to remember him
The Chuck Brown Memorial Park in Washington D.C. has his statue and a memorial wall documenting Brown’s life and achievements.
Chuck Brown FAQs
What was Chuck Brown’s cause of death?
Brown died of sepsis caused by multiple organ failure.
Are James Brown and Chuck Brown related?
No, James Brown and Chuck Brown are not related.
Was Chuck Brown married?
Yes, he and Jocelyn Brown were married for 30 years.
Chuck Brown’s birthday dates