Chuck Brown memorial service: Speeches, spirituals — and a parting blast of go-go

What? You thought the Godfather of Go-Go’s memorial service would be a succinct program?

Not a chance. Not for Chuck.

Chuck Brown’s public memorial Thursday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center will be much like the local music icon’s legendary concerts: It will keep going and going.

There are nearly four hours of programming planned, from longtime radio personality Donnie Simpson’s noon welcome to Temple Hills pastor Michael A. Freeman’s benediction, just before 4 p.m.

In between, according to a schedule released Wednesday, Brown’s life and music will be celebrated in prayer, song and speeches, by church leaders, entertainers, family members and political dignitaries.

Brown fell ill in March and spent several weeks in the hospital before he died May 16 at age 75. Ever since, from candlelight vigils-cum-dance parties to a public viewing of the Brown’s open casket, fans of the singular singer — who gave Washington its own sound, a homespun strain of funk — have celebrated and mourned him. More than 12,000 went to the Howard Theatre for the public viewing Tuesday.

The convention center, with space for 14,500, will open at 10 a.m. Thursday for the memorial service. Every seat is expected to be filled, a family spokeswoman said. The service will air on the District’s cable channel (Channel 16) and will be streamed live on washingtonpost.com.

Scheduled speakers include Brown’s sons, Nekos and Wiley, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, motivational speaker Willie Jolley, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, actor-musician Anwan “Big G” Glover, D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Del. Eleanor H. Norton and comedian-actor Mike Epps.

And, of course, there will be music: spirituals and inspirational songs mostly, performed by the likes of gospel artists Andrea Dumas and Tye Tribbett and soul singers Ledisi and Raheem DeVaughn. Then, near the end of the service, after the speakers and the eulogy, the convention center will be transformed into a go-go.

Brown’s band will perform a medley of his songs, with the help of a few go-go legends — the other faces from the genre’s Mount Rushmore — Gregory “Sugarbear” Eliot of Experience Unlimited, Andre “White Boy” Johnson of Rare Essence and “Big Tony” Fisher of Trouble Funk.

They’ll wind up the Chuck Brown songbook one last time, giving the Godfather of Go-Go a syncopated send-off.

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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