Entertainment & Arts

Amen Break musician finally gets paid

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The musician behind one of the most-sampled pieces of music in history has finally been rewarded for his work.

The Amen Break - a six-second drum solo in The Winstons' 1969 track Amen, Brother - has been sampled by artists including The Prodigy, Oasis and NWA.

But its writers never received any royalties from those recordings.

In an effort to correct that, fans set up a crowdfunding page which has now delivered a £24,000 cheque to The Winstons' frontman Richard Spencer.

"Thank you so much for this great contribution to my life," he said in a video statement on Facebook.

"Thank you very, very much. A-men!"

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Spencer, who arranged Amen, Brother and owned the copyright, retired from music in 1971

The campaign was set up earlier this year by British DJs Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald, whose initial target was just £1,000.

"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 it... please donate," Webster wrote on the fundraising page.

The campaign closed in March, but Webster said "transferring the money from the UK to Richard in America caused some big headaches, with my bank being a bit awkward!"

Spencer finally received the cheque this week, posting his thank you message on the campaign's Facebook page on Tuesday.

'Do the right thing'

Webster was inspired to raise money for the musician by a 2011 BBC radio documentary, which tracked down Spencer and asked him about the famous drum break.

The musician expressed frustration that he was unable to pursue legal avenues in order to recoup the money the sample had generated.

The statute of limitations for copyright infringement is three years in the US - meaning civil and criminal cases must be filed within 36 months of the song being sampled.

Spencer told the BBC he wasn't even aware of his song's second life until 1996, when a British record label contacted him, seeking to buy the master tapes.

"I was still in Washington DC. I was attending university and working in the transit system," he recalled. "I felt as if I had been touched somewhere that no-one is supposed to touch. I felt invaded, like my privacy had been taken for granted.

He urged musicians who had used the Amen Break to "do the right thing".

"I'm flattered that you chose it but make it a legal interaction - pay me.

"The young man who played that drumbeat, Gregory Coleman, died homeless and broke in Atlanta, Georgia," he added.

According to whosampled.com, the Amen Break has been sampled 1,862 times - far ahead of other popular samples like James Brown's Funky Drummer, which appears in 1,136 songs; and Lyn Collins' Think (About It) which crops up in 1,324 tracks.

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