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It’s been more than two years since D.C. lost Chuck Brown, but his legacy here is as tangible—-and audible—-as ever. Heightened policing and unfriendly regulations are making it harder to see go-go in an official venue, but it’s an ever-present sound on the streets, especially in summer, bounding from car windows and wafting through open storefront doors. The city’s heart still beats in go-go rhythm, and this August, Brown himself will make a sonic return with one last release of new music.
Beautiful Life, which drops on August 19, is a collection of songs Brown recorded in late 2011 and three new tracks from the Chuck Brown Band, which still plays local shows and tours under Brown’s name. The album boasts guest spots from the likes of Faith Evans and homegrown talent like Wale, Raheem DeVaughn, and Sugar Bear of go-go greats E.U.
PledgeMusic is hosting a presale for the record, plus autographed prints and backstage passes to the album release parties (D.C.’s is August 22 at the Howard Theatre). The album description promises some of Brown’s “most accomplished work,” a career bookend, recorded in the last year of his life, that does justice to the breadth of his influence and invention. “It was a reflective period for the Godfather of Go Go as he looked back on his incredible journey and the peaks and valleys of his life, never forgetting where he came from and never taking a day or a fan for granted,” it reads.
As much as we hunger for more output from our favorite late artists and personalities, posthumous releases are complicated projects that often fall short of our elevated hopes. They’re wrapped up in fond memories seen through a soft-focus lens and a wish for “one last” something that will keep our heroes alive just a little bit longer. They raise issues of consent and artistic integrity: Who profits off of the artists’ sweat and creative juices after they’re gone? Would she or he have OKed the final post-production, post-editing result, or wanted it released at this time, in this way? Short of an explicit will, we can’t know. Chuck Brown has his band to carry on his groove, but Beautiful Life might be better seen as a tribute than a final statement.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery