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You Can Help Build the World’s First Go-Go Archive

Librarians are calling for the preservation of Washington, D.C.’s iconic musical genre

Chuck Brown, known as the grandfather of go-go, died in 2012. Now, a go-go archive is being assembled in his honor. (SKIP BOLEN/epa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

What’s funky, syncopated and capable of making just about anybody bounce? If you live in Washington, D.C., your answer is likely “go-go,” a distinctive music genre that has its roots in the District. Now, writes Perry Stein for the Washington Post, go-go is about to go-go into the annals of history with the creation of a new archive devoted to the genre.

Stein reports that the D.C. library system is actively soliciting donations of go-go related artifacts, recordings and memorabilia. The archive started in honor of go-go giant Chuck Brown, who died in 2012.

As Chris Richards' wrote in his Washington Post obituary of Brown, the bandleader was the “genre’s most charismatic figure,” a local legend who combined elements of funk, jazz and R&B with an infectious call-and-response performance style to create go-go. Known for his flamboyant clothing and the tagline "Wind me up, Chuck!," Brown was able to keep people dancing all night long with tunes like "Bustin’ Loose," which became go-go’s only Top 40 hit.

The library is encouraging residents who want to share memories of Brown, ticket stubs, or performance videos to come out of the woodwork so that the genre can be documented and preserved. “We cannot do it alone,” plead library staff on the collection’s website. “We need your help -- and your favorite Go-Go memorabilia.”

Go-go is credited with influencing everything from old-school hip-hop to helping bring together District residents at unforgettable parties and performances. But since Brown invented go-go in the 1970s, the genre has struggled to cross over outside of Washington, D.C. In 2012, Atlantic reporter Abdul Ali blamed “gentrification, hostility from police, and [the genre’s] own insularity” for its obscurity outside of its predominantly black fanbase. Perhaps a physical archive of its remnants will help solidify its reputation as a groundbreaking genre—and allow Brown's legacy to continue to wind future fans up.

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