Hear The Most Popular 7 Seconds of Drumming Ever Recorded
by James Hunt / Mental Floss UK
In May 1969, a funk and soul group called The Winstons released a single: Color Him Father. It sold over a million copies and eventually reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, winning a Grammy the following year. But despite the lead track's popularity, its B-side, Amen Brother, contains what may be the most listened-to slice of music from the last century.
When it was released, the song - an instrumental cover of Jester Hairston's 1963 song, Amen - went virtually ignored in favor of the acclaimed lead track. But in the years since, a seven-second drum solo performed by Gregory Cylvester "G. C." Coleman halfway through the song has been sampled over and over again, to the point where entire musical genres are based around it. At current estimates, over 2,000 released tracks make use of it, and more are created every day.
The drum solo became known as the Amen Break (a break is a section of a song where all but one instrument, usually drums, stop for a few seconds) after - by chance or providence - it gained popularity in the hip-hop scene of the mid 1980s. The nature of the solo allowed a number of different sounds to be cut up and rearranged to form entirely new beats, enhancing its popularity with sampling artists looking for clean drum loops to base their tracks around.
The earliest appearance of the sample on a released record is the track I Desire, from Salt-N-Pepa's 1986 debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious, though it also appears on Stetsasonic's 1986 track, Bust That Groove. Just two years later, it appeared on 10 albums (including NWA's seminal Straight Outta Compton), and by the mid-90s it was routinely appearing on hundreds of releases a year, buoyed by its discovery by British dance music producers who used it as the very basis for the new jungle music scene.
By 1997, it had become so popular that it appeared on both Oasis' hit song, D'You Know What I Mean, and David Bowie's Little Wonder, despite the artists having nothing to do with the subcultures that popularised it. According to WhoSampled, a site which tracks the use of common samples, it has already been featured on 6 releases this year, averaging more than one a week.
It's hard to say why this break snowballed in popularity over any others, though some experts say it's because the break's syncopated (irregular) rhythm means it's possible to create lots of variations by sampling and rearranging the track without making the joins too obvious.
And while the members of the band never received royalties from the use of their recording, a 2015 online campaign by British DJ's Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald raised £24,000 for Richard Spencer, the frontman and only living member of the group that produced the recording.
You can listen to the full version of The Winston's Amen Brother using the YouTube link below, but the famous moment occurs at 1:26 in. Even if you've never heard it before, we're confident you'll recognise the sound of those drums - and from now on, you'll notice them everywhere.