One Year Later: R.I.P. Chuck Brown


The Godfather is gone.Daddy is gone, too.

Thousands packed the Washington Convention Center for Chuck Brown’s funeral. But if anyone wanted to shed a tear for Chuck they needed to squeeze it in between dance sessions — the funeral was a party. Brown’s family and a VIP crowd including Mayor Vincent Gray and former Mayor Marion Barry paid respects to the man who developed a rhythmic form of funk that Washington claims as its own. Brown was 75.A year after Chuck Brown’s death, go-go is still D.C.’s neglected treasure

Bands, once banished to suburbs by crime crackdown, are trickling back — but city’s sound needs support.

When those realities collide onstage — during performances by Chuck Brown’s band, without the Godfather of Go-Go, who died one year ago — Takeesa “KK” Donelson often breaks down.
“I get so emotional, I start crying,” said Donelson, a go-go rapper who spent years sharing a stage with her famous father. “I have to walk off, get myself together and come back — every time we perform.”Chuck Brown died May 16, 2012, of complications from sepsis during a long hospitalization for pneumonia. He was 75, a local legend, the progenitor of a homespun strain of funk that became the sound of black Washington.His fans lost a cultural icon. His family lost a husband, a dad, a provider.

A year later, one group is getting on better than the other.

“Everybody who connected with Chuck misses him,” said Darryl Brooks, a concert promoter who was close to Brown. “But for the family, it’s like somebody taking the foundation from under you. I pray for them.”

Before he became ill last year, Brown was everywhere, maintaining a full schedule of performances and public appearances.

Demand for his services — and songs — was robust: He earned $235,000 to $285,000 annually, according to documents filed with the Prince George’s County Register of Wills.

“He was working all the time, and he loved it,” said his manager, Tom Goldfogle. “Working was his life.”

Brown is still being mourned and celebrated. A tribute band, including many of Brown’s old bandmates, will perform some of his songs Thursday — the anniversary of his death — at the Howard Theatre. A second concert is scheduled for Friday at Rams Head in Annapolis.

They’ll do “Bustin’ Loose” and “Go Go Swing” and “Run Joe” and most of the rest of Brown’s best-known songs, just as they’ve done multiple times since he died, usually at the Howard, where Brown had shined shoes before finding stardom with his own sound.

Wiley Brown, who moved home from Virginia Tech to look after his grieving mother, will sing some of his father’s parts.

Nekos Brown, who keeps a memorial service banner in the car, will wear a suit and hat, the way Dad always did.

Donelson will try to keep it together while summoning her beloved stepfather’s spirit. “The music will be alive, even though he is gone,” she said.

It will be a dance party, not a wake: That came at the Howard last May, when thousands of people lined up around the block to view Brown’s open casket.

The singer is buried in an unmarked grave at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf. His final resting place is near a tree in the cemetery’s Garden of Christus. The family plans to put a footstone down sometime this year; there’s been talk of a graveside remembrance service around Brown’s birthday, which is Aug. 22.

During his career, Brown projected an image of wealth. He bought his own limousine, wore alligator shoes and tailored suits and sometimes draped fur coats over his shoulders.

The singer and his wife owned at least two homes, in Waldorf and Brandywine. But Brown did not necessarily die rich, the court filings show.

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How do you remember Chuck Brown? Share your memories, thoughts, prayers, tributes… – NS