How the Man Behind One of Pop's Most-Used Beats Died Homeless

The Winstons got no royalties as track was sampled by likes of Bowie, Salt-N-Pepa
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2015 4:12 PM CDT
Updated Apr 4, 2015 3:46 PM CDT

In 1969, a band called the Winstons recorded a song whose name you probably don't know—even though there's a good chance you've heard about six seconds of it. "Amen, Brother" was an instrumental B-side to a Grammy-winning hit called "Color Him Father," and it contains six seconds of drumming that have been sampled on more than 1,500 tracks, the BBC reports, pointing to data from Among those who have used the beat are big names like David Bowie, Oasis, NWA, Nine Inch Nails, and Salt-N-Pepa, not to mention those behind the Futurama theme song, Rolling Stone reports. But the Winstons never received any royalties for the usage.

The sampling of what's known as the "Amen Break" began in the 1980s, and at the time, the legal rules surrounding it weren't clear. The drummer who played the beat, one GC Coleman, died homeless in 2006 in Atlanta, and frontman Richard Spencer doesn't think Coleman was aware of the song's influence. But there's something of a happy ending to all this: British musicians have started an online fund to repay Spencer for the band's work, and they've collected more than $32,000 on GoFundMe. "If you have ever written or sold any music with the amen break, or even just enjoyed one of the countless hundreds and hundreds of tunes that contain … please donate towards the good cause," the campaign requests. (Jay Z also wants you to pay for music—via his new streaming service.)

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