Chuck Brown died one year ago today, on May 16, 2012.
We have no way of knowing how many block parties, go-gos, and barbecues have been held in Brown’s honor since then. But at least a few major tributes to Brown have emerged in the last year, some of them with more staying power than others.
Among the most enduring commemorations was the Howard Theatre’s regularly scheduled “Wind Me Up, Chuck! Mondays” that the venue inaugurated last fall. Tonight, on the first anniversary of Brown’s death, Howard picks up where it left off with the Chuck Brown All-Star Go-Go Tribute Band and a battery of local go-go stars: E.U.’s Sugar Bear, Rare Essence’s Whiteboy, Junk Yard’s Buggs, and several others. If you miss the Howard Theatre show on Thursday, Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis hosts another edition on Friday night.
Meanwhile, D.C. trumpeter Philip Lassiter is in the studio working on a posthumous Chuck Brown release. The album, which includes original Brown tracks, should serve as an official memoriam of sorts—when it drops, anyway. Lassiter, a section leader for Prince’s band, isn’t yet ready to talk about the album; it’s still in its early stages.
But the most permanent tribute to the Godfather of Go-Go is the District’s planned Chuck Brown memorial in Ward 5’s Langdon Park. That is, if it ever gets off the ground. The memorial began as a simple statue, but gradually ballooned into an outdoor amphitheater. Many neighborhood residents didn’t like that idea, citing the usual anxieties over noise, trash, and gridlock. On May 6, a coalition of neighbors sent a letter to Mayor Vince Gray, outlining their concerns and suggesting the amphitheater move somewhere else: “If D.C. wants to properly honor Chuck Brown, he should be honored in a lively, bustling part of the city,” says the letter. If the amphitheater is built, residents write, “the community will likely work to enact strict guidelines for using the amphitheater. These guidelines will be necessary for the community to remain peaceful, but—unfortunately—[they will belie] Chuck Brown’s legacy of excitement, art, creativity and, generally Bustin’ Loose.”
Top photo by Darrow Montgomery