Just before Chuck Brown took the stage at a George Washington University Alumni Weekend concert in September, the “Godfather of Go-Go” chatted with GWU President Steven Knapp, who is a percussionist.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you come up on the stage and play with us?’ ” Knapp recounted Friday morning, the day after Brown died at the age of 75.
Knapp figured he would play a drum solo for a few minutes and then sneak off the stage. Twenty minutes later, he was still playing. At one point, Brown got the crowd to chant: “Go President Knapp, Go President! Go President Knapp, Go President!”
“It was pretty intense,” said Knapp, a Romantic literature scholar-turned-administrator who has led GWU since 2007. “That’s an unusual experience for a university president.”
After the concert, Knapp said that Brown gave him one of the greatest compliments he has ever received: “I haven’t seen hands that fast since my calypso days.”
Knapp jokes that he wants that quote engraved on his tombstone one day.
On Thursday afternoon, Knapp was at a ground-breaking for a new building when he heard the news of Brown’s death. That night, he issued a statement: “Chuck Brown was a true cultural icon in the District of Columbia. He essentially invented a genre of music — go-go — that will have a lasting presence in the culture not only of Washington but of America as a whole.”
Here’s a video of the Brown-Knapp performance on Sept. 16, 2011:
...and Chuck Brown Made It Go-Go (August 1994)