The untimely death in 1996 of
33-year-old pop/jazz singer Eva Cassidy struck a deep chord with Chuck
Brown. Washington, D.C.’s godfather of go-go had teamed with Cassidy on
the 1995 release “The Other Side.”
“After we lost her, I didn’t want to do anymore studio work,” Brown said.
But cajoling from songwriter/producer Chucky Thompson and business manager Tom Goldfogle changed Brown’s tune. “We’re
About the Business” (due April 24 from Raw Venture) is the musician’s first set of primarily original material since
That’s not all. Rapper Eve samples his No. 31 1974 R&B hit
“Blow Your Whistle” on “Tambourine.” The Swizz Beatz-produced track is the first single from her long-awaited album.
“When ‘Blow’ first came out, there were little kids riding
bicycles, blowing whistles and shaking tambourines,” Brown said, his
gravelly voice erupting in gentle laughter. “That tune is a classic.”
As is Brown himself. Still an energetic fixture on the D.C.
club circuit, Brown and his Soul Searchers have been preaching the
gospel of go-go since the ’70s. The pumping grooves of Latin
percussion, jazz, soul, gutbucket rhythm and funk define
Brown’s journey from a piano-playing, church-bred youth to
guitar-strumming member of a Latin group covering top 40 songs.
In between were such inspirations as James Brown, bluesmen B.B.
King and Muddy Waters and jazz icons Ella Fitzgerald and Wes
MIXING IT UP “When I left the Latin group to form a band, I was looking
for my own sound,” Brown said. “I kept that (Latin) sound, mixed it
with the church sound of my childhood, Brown’s live funk and congos.”
Brown’s pioneering sound inspired other go-go acts through
the years, including Trouble Funk. The best-known, E.U. (aka
Experience Unlimited), scored four top 10 R&B singles in the late
’80s, most notably the No. 1 party jam “Da’Butt,” featured in Spike
Lee’s film “School Daze.”
Brown himself first charted in 1972 with his and the Soul
Searchers’ “We the People, Part 1” (No. 40 R&B). But go-go didn’t
fully click until 1976, with Brown’s No. 1 R&B/No. 34 pop hit
“Bustin’ Loose, Part 1.” Twenty-six years later, when
Nelly sampled “Bustin’ Loose” for his mainstream blockbuster
“Hot in Herre,” the track still registered. Outside of live albums and
a Christmas collection, Brown’s last stand on the
R&B charts (No. 26) was 1984’s “We Need Some Money.”
He began recording “Business” in late 2004. His pairing with
protege Thompson — who toured Europe with Brown at the age of 17 —
results in such can’t-help-but-move tracks as the single “Chuck Baby”
(featuring Brown’s rapping daughter KK, whose own go-go band, Backyard,
is earning its share of buzz around D.C.) and “Party Roll,” the theme
song for the D.C.
Lottery’s spring campaign. And only Brown could pull off the
go-go-ification of “Love Theme From ‘The Godfather.”‘
Brown will perform a rare series of club shows outside his
D.C. base, in cities including New York, New Orleans and
Atlanta. Also on the schedule are a live simulcast April 24 on
D.C. stations WKYS and WMMJ from the city’s Hard Rock Cafe and a performance berth on radio personality Tom Joyner’s annual
Fantastic Voyage cruise (May 20-27).
Though go-go’s popularity remains strongest in D.C. and overseas, Brown isn’t about to end his crusade.
“I’ve had records that absolutely did nothing,” he said.
“But I’ll never get tired of go-go. As long as God keeps me
able, I’m still getting hired and I’m still not tired, I won’t be