Music

Billboard Music Awards Snub Chuck Brown: “Of Course, D.C. Would Feel Slighted”

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Toby Canham/Getty Images

Toby Canham/Getty Images

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Billboard Music Awards honored the lives and legacies of this year’s fallen artists at Sunday’s (May 20) show. The stage was set for praising now-deceased icons such as Whitney Houston, Adam Yauch, Robin Gibb and Donna Summer. But fans of D.C.’s go-go scene were left wanting when the night passed with no mention of go-go legend Chuck Brown, who passed away last week (May 16) at age 75.

Tabi Bonney, a DC-based rapper who is known for promoting the local slang and culture, felt the backlash in his community.

“Of course D.C. would feel slighted,” he told CBS Local. “Certain people may not be aware or educated on the matter. Or maybe it didn’t affect their world as much. But you can’t call yourself Billboard and not acknowledge the man who created a sound and took it nationally.”

Meanwhile, Billboard offered some memorial treatment to all the pop artists who passed away this year. John Legend and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks paid tribute to Whitney Houston by singing the songs Houston made famous, “The Greatest Love Of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” respectively. Natasha Bedingfield sang the late Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”; the deceased Beastie Boys’ member, Adam Yauch, was lifted high by Cee Lo Green and his Goodie Mob, who performed a portion of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right.”

Bee Gees member Robin Gibb, who passed away the same day as the live award ceremony, was also acknowledged. “His voice, and the music of The Bee Gees will live on forever,” said the show’s co-host, Modern Family co-star Julie Bowen. Each act remembered was a mainstream staple.

“Sometimes people think go-go is just local,” said Raheem Devaughn, the D.C.-based R&B-soul singer who has recorded with Brown. “But it’s something that people gravitate to worldwide…It’s no surprise to me that this association has disrespected our music and art. Once again, they overlooked someone who was an icon and legend.”

The apparent snub comes just over a year after the 2011 Grammy Awards left hip-hop fans feeling sour. During the “In Memoriam” segment, which shows a wide range of academy artists each year who have passed, neglected to add Guru, the frontman of groundbreaking rap group Gang Starr. For DeVaughn, the Chuck Brown oversight (or deliberate ommission) smacks of the same disconnectedness.

He doesn’t buy the argument that Brown fell victim to a popularity contest.

“To me, there is no difference between Adele and Jill Scott,” he said. “Why would you put a brand on something and to say it is more valuable than another brand because of the genre.”

To be sure, there were other deceased artists who were not honored. Among them, Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T & The MG’s, who played on classic records by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave. Levon Helm, drummer and singer from Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, The Band, was also not included.

Brown, who is credited with creating go-go music, began his music career in the 1960s, playing guitar with Jerry Butler and The Earls of Rhythm. He broke out with hits “Bustin’ Loose” and “I Need Some Money.” He died due to complications from pneumonia.

For fans of the music genre he fathered, it’s clear that Chuck Brown deserved to be acknowledged in some way at the ceremony. But it doesn’t change the connection he had to rising artists who were influenced by his music.

“Regardless if Billboard paid tribute or not, in no way does that determine Chuck Brown’s significance,” Bonney said.

DeVaughn echoed the sentiment.

“At the end of the day, and when the history is written, Chuck Brown is a legend and it’s in the history books,” said DeVaughn. “It doesn’t matter that no one mentioned him at the Billboard Awards, but yeah, it’s disrespectful.”

The funeral services for Brown will be held next week according to longtime manager Tom Goldfogle. Billboard and Don Mischer Productions did not return calls for comment. –Erik Parker, CBS Local

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