Annual Chuck Brown Day marks legacy of go-go pioneer

D.C. music legend Chuck Brown died a little more than seven years ago, but his memory is celebrated year-round in the syncopated rhythm of the music he’s known for pioneering.

Fans of go-go music and others gathered at Chuck Brown Memorial Park on Saturday for the fifth annual celebration of Chuck Brown Day.

“Chuck was the one that kept all of us united,” said Tyrone. He chose not to give a last name, but told WTOP that he was born and raised in the District. “Whenever we [went to] see Chuck to celebrate, it’s like a family.”

The urgency of musical preservation was a thread woven into this year’s celebration, especially after an incident earlier this year when a local cellphone store was ordered to stop playing go-go music on outside speakers because a resident of a nearby luxury apartment building reportedly threatened to file a lawsuit against the store.

Resistance from D.C. natives, longtime residents and go-go lovers was swift, and the #DontMuteDC movement blossomed.

“This is our culture. We were born and raised up off [of] this [music] … For them to try to get rid of it and they don’t know our culture is a mistake,” Tyrone said while walking to the park.

A short spat of rain broke out during one of the performances, but the drops didn’t seem to faze the celebrants or the musicians.

D.C. elected officials also took the stage at the park on 20th and Franklin streets in Ward 5 to reiterate their support for preserving this part of the city’s musical past and present.

“This year has been very important to highlight to all of us why we have to preserve our history and celebrate our history, and I want you to know we’re fully behind #DontMuteDC — and long live go-go music,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the crowd from the stage.

Bowser and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie also thanked Ward 7 Councilman Vincent Gray for the path he helped pave that led to the fifth annual celebration. Gray was the city’s mayor when the memorial and park were unveiled in 2014.

“I love go-go music,” McDuffie said. “Mayor Muriel Bowser talked about how we [have] some new folks who are coming to the city — and we love new folks coming to the city. But when they try to shut down go-go music, that’s one thing we’re not going to let them do.

“It doesn’t matter how much this city changes, the one thing that will always remain the same is going to be our music. I tell people all the time, you don’t have to love go-go music, but you’ve gotta respect the culture. That’s why I, along with my colleagues in the council, have introduced a bill to make go-go music the official music of D.C.”

The bill was introduced in June, and will next be considered by the Committee of the Whole.

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