The Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown, with his Soul Searchers
Background information on David N. Rubin’s 1990 documentary Go-Go Swing is pretty hard to come by. But that hardly takes away from how deep a snapshot it is of the highly regional Washington D.C. brand of funk called go-go.
Developed first by jazz guitarist and singer Chuck Brown (whose group the Soul Searchers were at the top of D.C.’s scene), go-go is characterized by its laidback but dynamic funk rhythms accented with heavy conga beats, freaky keyboards, blasting horns and call-and response vocals. And its been a staple of the mid-Atlantic scene for the past 35 years.
Go-go reached a crest during the 1980s, as bands like Trouble Funk, E.U., Rare Essence, Redds and the Boys, Hot Cold Sweat, the Junk Yard Band and others got signed and discarded by various majors and independents. E.U.’s performance of “Da Butt” on Spike Lee’s School Daze was a coup as far as national exposure for the music.
Go-go has retained its shine to this day, as plenty of R&B artists dabble in its rhythms to this day, and D.C. troupe Beat Ya Feet Kings bringing next-generation go-go dance style to a range of tempos and genres.
Rubin’s doc goes deep into the context of the go-go scene, dealing with the trials, tribulations, mournings and celebrations that are all part of living in D.C. Check out the whole thing—it’s really worth it.