As a discerning DJ, you should be well aware of the impact that the The Winstons’ “Amen Brother” has had on Dance Music. If not, read and listen, and hand in your DJ card before you leave. The first track that officially sampled the Amen Break was 2 Live Crew’s 1987 Hip-Hop classic, Feel Alright Y’all. Since then everyone and their dog has produced a track using some form of the breakbeat, yet it still sounds as Fresh Ahh as the day it was made.
What isn’t widely talked about is just how royally (and royalty – Ed) screwed The Winstons were from the music industry. None of the band saw a single penny from the use of their sample. In fact, for a long time, they were completely unaware of just how much impact their work had globally.
Essentially a tale of artist naivety and industry shenanigans, The Winstons didn’t realise that their track was huge, but a record label did. Sadly though to ill health, no progress was made in reissuing the track, and with the statute of limitations passing, the track became fair game. Cue wholesale ripping by all and sundry, and still no money going to the creators.
But one man is trying to change that. After hearing a Radio 1 documentary about the Amen Break, UK DJ Martyn Webster decided to start a fund to try to give back at least a fraction of what we owe the band through donations on crowdfunding site gofundme.com. Martyn’s hope wasn’t to claw back the royalties that could have been owed to the band, but rather to show just how much the Dance Music community cares about their contribution to the culture.
Unfortunately, as often is the case when money is involved, there were questions were raised int he comments about where the money is actually going. The target of the fund was surviving band member Richard L Spencer, who wrote the arrangement. The drummer who actually performed the break, G C Coleman, sadly died in 2006, having never received a penny from his sampled work. But should his children be entitled to some of the money?
Whatever happens, it’s clear that Martyn’s heart is in the right place, and he’s done something we should have done a long time ago: recognise and contribute to the creators of the greatest six seconds in electronic music, the Amen Break. For me personally, the sample defined my early teenage years, back when The Prodigy’s Experience LP became a gateway to the Hardcore Rave scene.
Here’s a little bonus for you: The Winstons recorded Love of the Common People (yes, of Paul Young) as a bonus track on the Color Him Father EP and it’s really rather nice.
Will you be donating to the fund? Post your favourite tracks that use the Amen in the comments!