Thursday, April 23, 2015

They've All Got the Beat

Way back in 1969, The Winstons released a single called "Color Him Father." They needed a B-side, since this was in the era of physical singles and blank vinyl doesn't make money. Thus the song "Amen, Brother," an instrumental, came forth.

And where it went, thousands of songs followed. Drummer GC Colman had four measures to himself during the song, and he laid down six seconds of solo that have been copied and sampled and replayed by everyone from Salt-N-Pepa to David Bowie. Listen to one of the versions recorded on YouTube or elsewhere and you will undoubtedly recognize the riff.

Surviving members of the band disagree on who directed the riff, but there is no disagreement on one thing -- it is some funky genius. A couple of British DJs started a Go Fund Me page for the song's copyright holder, Winstons' front man and retired teacher Richard Spencer. As of this writing, it had collected £24,000 for its initial goal of £1,000. That's a little more than $36,000 at the exchange rate the day this post is being written.

The pair said they were doing it because the only royalties Spencer ever saw were for the song itself. See, if you record a song that someone else wrote, you have to pay them (or whoever holds the copyright) for the privilege. But if you take a snip of it and lay it down as a backing track behind whatever you're recording or speed it up or do whatever studio magic you want to do with it, that's "sampling" and you don't have to pay anyone anything. As to what the difference is, that's "lawyering" and you have to pay to find someone who understands it and can explain it to you. By the hour, no less.

Anyway, it's a cool little piece of pop history and finding "Amen, Brother" and the Winstons is a happy accident in itself. Pardon me while I do a little getting down with my bad self for a bit...

1 comment:

CGHill said...

That little B-side is justly famed these days, but what chokes me up is on the A-side, when after a couple of verses extolling the virtues of the Man of the House, this comes out: "Our real old man, he got killed in the war."