Sept. 17: This post has been updated to include feedback from the music video’s director.
It’s been more than two years since the death of Chuck Brown, the originator of D.C.’s go-go music. But Brown’s family, friends and fans—along with the D.C. government—have spent those two years solidifying the bandleader’s legacy.
On Aug. 19, the posthumous Chuck Brown album, Beautiful Life, saw its release. On Aug. 22—Brown’s birthday and “Chuck Brown Day” in D.C.—the District unveiled the new Chuck Brown Memorial in Langdon Park. Meanwhile, the Chuck Brown Band plays on, performing locally and this Sunday, Sept. 14, during Adams Morgan Day. And as of this week, there’s a new Chuck Brown music video for the heartwarming title track from his final record.
Joseph Pattisall directed the music video that debuted Sept. 9. He’s also one of the makers of The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan, the 2013 documentary about D.C.’s best-known graffiti tagger. He got involved through Dave Braun, whose company Braun Film & Video Inc. produced a DC Lottery commercial with Brown. The finished product was cobbled together using existing video from Braun, Brown’s longtime mananger Tom Goldfogle and Pattisall’s own stash from the Cool “Disco” Dan film.
Like another music video Brown starred in—Thievery Corporation’s 2008 visual for the song “The Numbers Game“—“Beautiful Life” shows Brown in a setting that must be familiar to his fans: on the streets, in people’s neighborhoods, waving and giving out hugs.
“In the editing I decided to use no shots of the Capitol building or Washington Monument,” Pattisall writes in an email. “This was meant to capture D.C. without having to go that route.”
Over the decades in which he made music and lived in the D.C. area, Brown must have earned the regional title of Most Photographed Musician; he posed for so many pictures with fans, Washington City Paper (where I used to work) filled a cover with them soon after he died at the age of 75. Inside people’s homes, in shoeboxes and on refrigerators, there must be hundreds—maybe thousands—more.
Throughout the video, recognizable faces (singer Carolyn Malachi, Trouble Funk‘s Big Tony, community figure Tony Lewis Jr.) and regular people hold up signs with excerpts from Brown’s lyrics: “It wasn’t always easy,” “Don’t worry about the things we can’t control,” “We just pray and hope for the best.”
Brown’s daughter KK makes an appearance later in the video, delivering a few touching verses about her dad. On the grounds of Chuck Brown Memorial Park, she raps, “You wasn’t just a father to me, but a father to all.”