Natalie Hopkinson’s new book, “Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City,” isn’t your typical history of D.C.’s music scene. The former Washington Post reporter, who now teaches journalism at Georgetown University, instead examines the cultural and economic factors that have sustained the go-go scene for four decades. She’ll discuss the book Monday at Politics and Prose.
Could go-go have thrived somewhere other than D.C.?
I would say yes. If you look at Chuck Brown’s influences, there’s a Caribbean flavor with the cowbells and congas, as well as blues and funk. Those aren’t necessarily organic things from D.C. It has some tropes in common with black music all around the world. But it has been hugely influential in the D.C. area because of black-owned businesses.
How does that factor in?
The music started at a time in D.C. when there weren’t a lot of opportunities to make a living. Go-go became an economic driver. Businesses … invested so much in go-go that they have a vested interest in keeping it alive. That gives more generations of musicians opportunities to participate in the culture.
Most local scenes die out after one or two generations, yet go-go is thriving.
It’s constantly innovating and changing. Kids today are just as enthusiastic about bounce beat as their parents were about Rare Essence and Chuck Brown back in the day. Black-owned businesses have adapted to that, which has given it a lot of vitality as an art form.