Read the Beat
Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, 1:27 p.m.Staff Picks
Read the Beat
Read About Go-Go with the Capital City Go-Go
The Beat!: Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C., Kip Lornell and Charles C. Stephenson, Jr.
The Beat! was the first book to explore the musical, social, and cultural phenomenon of Go-Go music. In this new edition, updated by a substantial chapter on the current scene, authors Kip Lornell and Charles C. Stephenson, Jr., place Go-Go within black popular music made since the middle 1970s - a period during which hip-hop has predominated. This styling reflects the District's African American heritage. Its super-charged drumming and vocal combinations of hip-hop, funk, and soul evolved and still thrive on the streets of Washington, D.C., and in neighboring Prince George's County, making it the most geographically compact form of popular music.
Go-Go - the only musical form indigenous to Washington, D.C.--features a highly syncopated, nonstop beat and vocals that are spoken as well as sung. The book chronicles its development and ongoing popularity, focusing on many of its key figures and institutions, including established acts such as Chuck Brown (the Godfather of Go-Go), Experience Unlimited, Rare Essence, and Trouble Funk; well-known DJs, managers, and promoters; and filmmakers who have incorporated it into their work. Now updated and back in print, The Beat! provides longtime fans and those who study American musical forms a definitive look at the music and its makers.
Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City, Natalie Hopkinson
Go-Go is the conga drum-inflected black popular music that emerged in Washington, D.C., during the 1970s. The guitarist Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go-Go," created the music by mixing sounds borrowed from church and the blues with the funk and flavor that he picked up playing for a local Latino band. Born in the inner city, amid the charred ruins of the 1968 race riots, Go-Go generated a distinct culture and an economy of independent, almost exclusively black-owned businesses that sold tickets to shows and recordings of live Go-Gos. At the peak of its popularity, in the 1980s, Go-Go could be heard around the capital every night of the week, on college campuses and in crumbling historic theaters, hole-in-the-wall nightclubs, backyards, and city parks.
Go-Go Live is a social history of black Washington told through its Go-Go music and culture. Encompassing dance moves, nightclubs, and fashion, as well as the voices of artists, fans, business owners, and politicians, Natalie Hopkinson's Washington-based narrative reflects the broader history of race in urban America in the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first. In the 1990s, the middle class that had left the city for the suburbs in the postwar years began to return. Gentrification drove up property values and pushed go-go into D.C.'s suburbs. The Chocolate City is in decline, but its heart, D.C.'s distinctive go-go musical culture, continues to beat. On any given night, there's live go-go in the D.C. metro area.
Crank Shaped Notes, Thomas Sayers Ellis
This book of photos, poems, and essays chronicles like never before the inner world of Go-Go, Washington D.C.'s official music. Thomas Sayers Ellis masterfully captures the rhythms, beats, and souls of a culture which is ever expanding beyond the beltway of our nation's capital. This is a must-read volume.
Take Me Out To The Go-Go: The Autobiography of Kato Hammond, Kato Hammond
In the tradition of the autobiography/memoir, TMOTTGoGo's Kato Hammond opens up for the first time about the inside stories of his life growing up in the legendary musical genre of Go-Go - which is still going strong today.In Take Me Out To The Go-Go, Kato Hammond exposes his unrepentant, unbridled life as a guitarist, actor, dancer, playwright, through bands such as Pure Elegance, Little Benny & The Masters, and Proper Utensils, to the Godfather of Go-Go Media. He delves deep into his volatile, profound, and enduring relationships and reveals an ultimate story of endurance, that started in the 1970s with a young Kato, a kid who despite negative statistics, took bold steps and sacrifices through lessons learned.Kato takes you through a personal look into a human story through the Go-Go music culture, the people who inspired him, the ones who enabled him, the ones who tried to control him, the ones who changed him, the one's who gave him opportunities, and the ones who tried to take them away. Take Me Out To The Go-Go is a whole story: a loner's story, a musician's story, an actor's story, a writer's story, a recovery story, a love story, a success story, a failure story, a visionary story, and a re-construction story.
Want to learn more? Visit the Go-Go Archives at the DC Public Library.