The “Amen break” is one of music’s most beloved and essential samples, ranking up there with “Funky Drummer” and “Think (About It)” as the most used breaks in hip-hop, dance and rock. Snatched from the Winstons’ 1969 track “Amen, Brother,” the sample has appeared at various speeds in the music of N.W.A, Nine Inch Nails, Oasis and even in the theme of the animated series Futurama.
However, because of statute of limitations on the recording, the primary songwriters behind the track – the Winstons’ Richard L. Spencer, who wrote the arrangement for the song and owned the copyright on the track, and drummer Gregory Coleman, who died homeless in 2006 – never received royalties from their indispensable beat. That is, until now.
A U.K. DJ named Martyn Webster started a GoFundMe page in order to pay back Spencer just a little of what he’s probably owed for his contribution to music (via FACT). While the page set an early goal of £1,000 (roughly $1,500), the drive has already amassed that almost 10 times over thanks to music fans eager to repay their debt to the “Amen break.” Just four days after the GoFundMe to benefit Spencer was posted, over 850 people have donated nearly $15,000.
“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 over various genres and styles of music, please donate towards the good cause of the worldwide music community giving something back to the man behind the legendary breakbeat,” Webster writes on the GoFund Me page.
Webster was inspired to fundraise on Spencer’s behalf after hearing a BBC Radio program in 2011 where they managed to track down the Winstons’ arranger and talk to him about the sample. Spencer expressed frustration that he was unable to pursue legal avenues in order to recoup some of the money the sample has helped generate and hoped that people would “do the right thing” when using the “Amen break” in the future.