A true legend of D.C. passed Wednesday, and it feels like a part of all us has been taken with him. And I'm sure I speak for anyone that grew up around here going back three or four generations.
When news of his hospitalization hit a few weeks ago, I remember telling a colleague that if they drove his body through the streets of D.C., it would be a spectacle similar to a presidential inauguration. Now, I wish I'd never spoke it.
It's impossible to really compare Chuck Brown to anyone because he had no equal on D.C.'s music scene. Surely, you could recall greats like Duke Ellington and Marvin Gaye, but Chuck embodied the people the way no artist ever has, or likely will ever be able to.
Wall Street Journal music critic Jim Fusilli tweeted last month that “Talking to [Chuck] in DC is like talking to Elvis in Memphis." If you don't know anything about Brown, that should tell you everything.
Those of us following closely knew that when he canceled his show at the newly renovated Howard Theatre, a place he tried to help keep alive as a go-go sanctuary in the 80s, that things weren't good.
But chronicles foretold of the Godfather's potential demise don't mean the reality hits any less harder. D.C. has lost the likes of someone that is truly irreplaceable. Chuck was the coolest cat's favorite cool cat. The guitar, the hat, the shades, everything about him was badass. And he had the talent to back it up.
Someone texted me earlier this season after seeing a home run at Nats Park: When did they stop playing Chuck after homers? I didn't have an answer. In fact, it never occurred to me that would ever change.
The lasting memory I'll take of Chuck is that for as much as he could have, he never made it all about himself. He was a man of the people, a man of the nation’s capital.
In the last major release of his I can remember, Brown teamed up with the locally grown duo Thievery Corporation for a song called "The Numbers Game." The video is a love letter to the District and the culture of the city. Which in a way, is exactly what Chuck Brown's life and career were to the rest of us.
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