Although the death of Chuck Brown on May 16 rocked the nation’s capital and many music lovers around the globe, feelings of sadness were lifted, if only for a brief moment, during a mostly joyous memorial service for the Go-Go legend on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The Walter E. Washington Convention center served both as church and stage for the family and close friends to honor the “Godfather of Go-Go.”
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Hosting the event was longtime local radio and TV personality Donnie Simpson, who nervously quipped that he had never done anything of the sort before in his career. Rev. Tony Lee, lead pastor of the Community of Hope AME Church, opened with prayer and scripture readings before musical selections were performed and speakers began to take the microphone. Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray greeted the thousands in attendance, followed by words from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
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Vocalist Ledisi led a moving rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Throughout the cavernous venue, sniffles could be heard and grown men dabbed at their eyes. Former mayor and current councilman Marion Barry offered a few special remarks, after being announced as the “Mayor For Life” in front of the current mayor.
After a video presentation from Carson Daly, the husband-wife duo of Kindred Family Soul took to the stage, performing the song “Nature Boy.” Following their performance, the Brown family sang a rendition of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye,” evoking more emotional responses from attendees. Friends of Brown’s from the Go-Go and musical community came forth with remarks as well, with Anwan “Big G” Glover (Slim Charles of “The Wire”) opening the segment. Hip-Hop veteran Doug E. Fresh and comedian Mike Epps also spoke.
Washington area crooner Raheem DeVaughn, who counts Chuck Brown as an influence, charmed the audience with a rendition of “Song For You.” Shortly after his performance, Dr. Michael Freeman, lead pastor of the Spirit of Faith Christian Center, delivered the eulogy for the evening, although he largely let the words of Brown’s friend serve as a proper sendoff. Freeman’s well-honed voice boomed through the walls, with the crowd swaying in agreement.
It would not have been a proper going home ceremony for Chuck Brown if Go-Go music were not a main feature. Go-Go music legends James Funk (of Rare Essence), Big Tony (of Trouble Funk), Sugar Bear (of Experience Unlimited) and KK Brown all joined Chuck Brown’s band onstage to perform a medley of his hits. As the band assembled, a white hearse arrived in the venue and pall bearers carried Brown’s golden coffin to the vehicle.
KK Brown, Chuck’s daughter, showed true professionalism by performing admirably, even with tears flowing down her face. KK shouted “Rest In Peace, Daddy” during her performance, as the entire Convention Center crowd grooved and danced. Photo opportunities were scarce as the crowd pressed to get one last glimpse of “The Godfather” before spilling out onto the Washington streets to further pay their respects.
“He was the best to ever do it and Go-Go lost its true Godfather,” shouted a man who only gave his name as Skinny Tim. “I’ve never been to a memorial service where I felt so happy afterward,” said Tanika Holden of Greenbelt. As the large crowd moved down the street with cars driving by pumping the sounds of Go-Go from their speakers, it was as if Chuck Brown was there rocking the crowd one last time.
Chuck Brown’s Going Home Ceremony Far From Being A Somber Affair was originally published on newsone.com