#dontmutedc has become a powerful call to ensure that DC's own indigenous music is supported, promoted and celebrated. Through these three great summer reads, learn about Go-Go's history, people, sounds, setbacks and future with DC Public Library's Go-Go Book Club, in partnership with Solid State Books, Washington Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington DC by Kip Lornell & Charles C. Stephenson, Jr.
Take Me Out To The Go Go: the Autobiography of Kato Hammond
Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City by Natalie Hopkinson
Go-go is an upbeat, funky Black popular music from Washington, D.C. with a history as long as that of house or hip-hop. Natalie Hopkinson, formerly the Media and Culture Critic for The Root, with access to clubs, producers, and artists, is well-placed to tell the story of the music from the 70s to the present. With the gentrification of the District, more of the Black population and the go-go industry have moved to the Maryland suburbs. In Go-Go Live, Hopkinson gives a critical, inside account of the scene and how it survives in a changing city.
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.
A former staff writer, editor, and culture critic at the Washington Post and The Root, Natalie Hopkinson is an assistant professor in Howard University’s graduate program in communication, culture and media studies and a fellow at the Interactivity Foundation. The author of A Mouth Is Always Muzzled (The New Press), as well as Go-Go Live and Deconstructing Tyrone (with Natalie Y. Moore), Hopkinson lives in Washington, D.C.
Learn more about DC Public Library's Go-Go Archive project at dclibrary.org/gogo
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