Can I Get An Amen?

In the late ’60s, Washington-based soul six-piece the Winstons recorded a top 10 hit with the single, “Color Him Father.” It was their first release for the Metromedia label and won them a Grammy for best R&B song in 1970. The outstanding lead vocals of Richard Spencer, alongside members Ray Martino, Quincy Mattison. Phil Tolotta, Sonny Peckrol and Gregory C. Coleman drew many comparisons to soul heavyweights the Impressions.

Unfortunately, it was their only success in what was a fairly mediocre career. The song was quickly forgotten and the 45 condemned to thrift store bargain bins and dusty basements worldwide.

The B-side, however, a rendition of the gospel classic “Amen brother”, had a very different fate. The funky soul track contained a five-second drum breakdown written and played by the Winstons drummer, Gregory C. Coleman. Its unmistakably funky, syncopated pattern was rediscovered nearly 20 years later by 2 Live Crew producer Mr. Mixx. With the aid of his sampler he crafted the break into the party classic, “Feel Alright Y’all.”

He wasn’t the only one to recognize the Amen break’s charm. A young Dr. Dre also appropriated it for the NWA classic, “Straight Outta Compton”, as did Eric B. and Rakim on “Casualities of War.” The Amen break has gone on to become the most sampled song in history, even surpassing James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”. It has been samples by artists as diverse as Mantronix, Nine Inch Nails and Euro-popster Wigfield. It has even fostered entire genres such as Jungle, which at one point was based on endless permutations of the break.

You would think that the Winstons, and most importantly, drummer Gregory C. Coleman would have been handsomely rewarded for the use of their material and remembered for its massive cultural impact. [Not really — after all, if you knew the break, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. – Ed.] Sales of the tunes sampling “Amen brother” must be in the millions. But the group has allegedly never received a penny in royalties.

Artists that have sampled “Amen brother”:

2 Live Crew: Feel Alright Y’all
3rd Bass: Wordz of Wisdom
4 Hero: Escape That
Amon Tobin: Nightlife
Aphex Twin: Boy/Girl Song
Atari Teenage Riot: Burn Berlin Burn
Brand Nubian: The Godz Must Be Crazy
Dee-Lite: Come on In, the Dreams are Fine
Dillinja: The Angels Fell
Eric B. and Rakim: Casualties of War
Funky Technicians: Airtight
Goldie: Chico: Death of a Rock Star
Heavy D: Flexin’
Heavy D: MC Heavy D!
Heavy D: Let it Flow
Heavyweight: : Oh Gosh
J. Majik: Arabian Nights
J. Majik: Your Sound
Lemon D: This is Los Angeles
Level Vibes: Beauty & the Beast
Lifer’s Group: Jack U. Back (So You Wanna Be a Gangsta)
LTJ Bukem: Music
Maestro Fresh Wes: Bring it On
Mantronix: King of the Beats
Movement Ex: KK Punani
Nice & Smooth: Dope Not Hype
NWA: Straight Outta Compton
Oasis: Do Y’know What I Mean
Roni Size: Brown Paper Bag
Salt-N-Pepa: Desire
Scarface: Born Killer
Schoolly D: How a Black Man Feels

Lawrence Lord

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