WASHINGTON — The godfather of go-go will live on forever, thanks to a new park memorializing Chuck Brown, who died two years ago at 75.
The memorial in Northeast D.C.’s Langdon Park will honor various aspects of Brown’s legacy, from his musical footprint to the city that helped launch his career.
Features include a circular plaza that will double as a temporary venue, mosaic tiles with photos from Brown’s life and career, a complete discography engraved in aluminum panels and toy instruments for anyone to play.
There will also be lawn seating for outdoor performances and a sustainable irrigation system that will collect rain water and transport it to underground storage tanks for the surrounding magnolia and cherry trees. Oak, cypress, maple, birch, elm and evergreen trees have also been planted.
But the best part?
The memorial park was designed by a native Washingtonian who grew up just two blocks away.
“This has really come full circle for me,” says Michael Marshall, design director and principal of Marshall Moya Design, which is overseeing the project.
“I remember playing in the park as a kid during Fourth of July, Mother’s Day … I’ve seen the whole evolution of the park.”
Marshall never had the opportunity to see Brown live in concert. By the time go-go was booming in D.C., Marshall was living in Connecticut and attending Yale University. But go-go music somehow made its way all way to New Haven, and he often heard his hometown hero on local radio stations.
Even the English were hip to Brown’s sound.
“Some people think of go-go music as only being played here, but, at that time, there were magazines — British and London-based magazines — that covered go-go,” he says.
“They covered cutting-edge cultural things and I remember being especially surprised to see them cover Chuck Brown and some of the local groups. It was a sort of underground, cool thing to be aware of that [scene].”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Marshall’s firm was also behind the restoration of the Howard Theatre in 2012. It was tasked with redeveloping the interior public spaces, which were turned into a kind of shrine to artists who performed there, from Aretha Franklin to BB King.
“Not unlike D.C.’s contribution to popular music — we also have Duke Ellington and Marvin Gaye, who have gone out and made their mark — this park is a dedication to [Brown’s] life and what he gave to our culture here in D.C.,” Marshall says.
The Chuck Brown Memorial Park will open Friday — Brown’s 78th birthday. The dedication ceremony kicks off at 11 a.m.
For a sneak peek, click through the gallery to the right.