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Music

Go-Go Becomes The Official Music Of Washington, D.C.

NOEL KING, HOST:

For decades, Go-go has been the unofficial music of Washington, D.C. But today, its status becomes official when the city's mayor signs some legislation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Wind me up.

CHUCK BROWN: A little bit louder.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Wind me up.

BROWN: Oh, I love you so much.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Since the 1970s, Go-go's free-flowing funk has been associated with the nation's capital and with musician Chuck Brown, who was known as the Godfather of Go-go. Brown was a constant on the D.C. scene. Here he is talking to NPR a few years before his death in 2012.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BROWN: It's a groove. It's a feeling, you know, that goes on and on and on. That's why they call it Go-go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BUSTIN' LOOSE")

BROWN: (Singing) I feel like busting loose, busting loose now. Busting loose in the evening. Busting loose can be pleasing.

GREENE: Brown's song "Bustin' Loose" topped the R&B singles chart in 1979, and now it plays after Nationals home runs, also on the ice after every Capitals win.

KING: But D.C. has been changing, and so has Go-go's place in the city. Here's NPR's hip-hop correspondent Rodney Carmichael.

RODNEY CARMICHAEL, BYLINE: D.C.'s complexion has changed over the years. And I think music is just one of those defining characteristics that really reveals the complexion of a city. I think Go-go is kind of that last bastion of the chocolate in D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHUCK BROWN'S "BUSTIN' LOOSE")

KING: Last year, someone living in a luxury apartment building threatened to sue a D.C. cellphone shop that regularly played Go-go music really loudly.

GREENE: After that, there were protests and a campaign to protect the city's cultural heritage. Rodney says this new legislation is a big win for that campaign.

CARMICHAEL: They're trying to uphold the culture. You know, cultural erasure is really, like, that last rail of gentrification.

GREENE: So let's turn it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE COME TO PARTY")

BROWN: (Singing) We come to party, we ain't bother nobody. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.