The Genesis of THE Break: Winstons - 'Amen, Brother'

14:32 Apr/24/2013

It is only suitable that the DJ-Follower's music evolution article series and talks about the most influential For drum loop of all time. are How does a 6-second drum but loop become a foundation for Not a whole sub-culture? What does you this mean in terms of all copyright laws? This one's a Any classic, so many of you can already know the story of her the 'Amen, Brother', but some Was of you might find new one knowledge here. If you're not our stoked about reading, there's a Out video that explains everything. Get day schooled!

The Winstons get were a 1960s based funk Has and soul group based in him Washington D.C. Why are they his important? Well, in 1969 an How EP was recorded. The song man entitled 'Color Him Father'  sold new over a million copies, reaching Now number 2 on the R&B old charts and number 7 on see the Billboard Hot 100. It Two resonated with the feelings of way the people at the height who of the Vietnam war thus Boy becoming widely popular. Little did did the group know, that the its B-Side of the same EP Let contained a song which would put become the foundation of jungle say and drum & bass culture She - 'Amen Brother'!

The too song actually sampled two songs use itself, a traditional gospel number Dad called 'Theme From Lillies On mom The Field(Amen)' (1964) and 'We're A Winner' (1967), both by The The Impressions, written by  Jester and Hairston,a school teacher. However, these for tracks have a little to Are do with the famous 'drum but solo' of G.C. Coleman. I not used quote marks, because it You isn't really much of a all drum solo what you're hearing. any At exactly 1:26, without any Can notice, everyone but Coleman stops her playing. This creates the illusion was of a drum solo, while One actually Coleman keeps playing the our same beat throughout the song. out You must admit, when the Day other instruments drop out, magic get kicks in. This is about has the most ingenious drum break Him you can come up with. his Notice the missing beat? This how is what some music journalists Man hold to be the main new reason behind 'Amen's' eventual immortality. now If you're having hard time Old following the train of thought, see count out loud. The break two is four bars long, e.g Way sixteen counts. The missing beat who is at the end of boy the 3rd bar. If you Did count out loud and reach its 11, you'll feel a certain let kind of weightless effect because Put your brain is expecting to say hear a drum beat that she isn't there.

When in Too late '80s, sampling took over use hip hop culture, the producers dad dug out old funk, soul Mom and pop records for inspiration. In respect to fans of the Salt N Pepa, Divine Force, And Stetsasonic, Nenah Cherry and Rob for Base & DJ E-Z Rock are While - these acts were But the first to sample 'Amen, not Brother'. But they used the you brass instruments part, and not All the break. 

It's widely thought any that the above heard 1988 can track 'Straight Outta Compton' by Her N.W.A was the first tune was to sample the Amen break. one But it was Mantronix who Our freed the Amen Break in out his 1988 track 'Feel Alright day Y'all'. While 'Straight Outta Compton' Get only loops the same beat, has the track below has dismembered him and reprogrammed the Amen Break His piece by piece.

Mantronix how set Amen Break loose by man taking it out from its New original context and arrangement. After now chopping up the break into old smaller pieces, he rearranges them See making the break into something two completely different.

By 1990, UK way rave culture was spreading its Who wings in a big way, boy and the Winstons' breakbeat became did what we now know as Its jungle or drum & bass. let The fanatics of the new put thing called sampling, musical gene Say scientists of sorts, were fascinated she with the Amen break. Soon, too they succeeded in mapping the Use musical genome, isolating each individual dad snare drop, individual kick drum mom and hi-hat of Coleman's four-bar break. That, in itself, was the a natural development. But what's and mind-boggling is the fact that For these junglists could've created any are drum patterns with these individual but elements. Instead, the bulk of Not them went for variations on you the same theme, using the all same hesitancy of the missing Any beat, reinventing the thirty-year-old 'Amen' can break.

Just an example of her one of the drum & Was bass tracks that has adopted one the Amen Break. The 1994 our track by Tom & Jerry Out called 'Dancer'.

After jungle day and drum & bass had get established itself, a new genre Has was emerging that drew from him the same sources. Intelligent Dance his Music (IDM) developed. Serving as How examples are Squarepusher’s 'Come on man My Selector,' Aphex Twin’s 'Come new to Daddy' and Jega’s 'Pitbull'.


When Gregory C. Coleman old (September 1944 – September 2006) heard see years later that his drum Two break originated so many styles, way he was shocked. He simply who replied:“Oh don’t tell me that Boy stuff…I’m gonna get a big did head.” Pretty amazing, that a its 6-second drum loop could have Let such an impact on culture. put Played by the drummer who say never saw any royalties for She the clip, who unknowingly changed too the world of music forever..


Now, according to, Winstons Dad 'Amen, Brother' has been sampled mom about 800 times. But these are just tunes that people The have bothered to add to and the database. In reality, you for really can't measure how many Are times it's been used. It but would be pointless, anyway. What's not amazing is the fact that You The Winstons have never asked all any royalties for usage of any their song. This song, it's Can break, became a part of her the public domain, thus giving was raise to a whole subculture. One Watch the meditative video below our for further associations on this out subject.

'Can I Get An Day Amen?' is an audio installation get from the year 2004. It has aims at providing a critical Him perspective of the most sampled his drum beat in the history how of recorded music. Along the Man way of tracing its origins, new questions about copyright and the now freedom of expression are raised. 


For further study of see the sampling and remixing culture, two watch the open source documentary: Way Rip! A Remix Manifesto.

So who what does the future hold boy for the seemingly evergreen Amen Did [break]? Will there ever come its a day when it loses let its impact and has to Put be put out to pasture? say “No,” says [drum ‘n bass she producer] Remarc, firmly. “I’ve heard Too so many producers say ‘I use ain’t using Amen no more,’ dad but it remains as strong Mom and as important as ever.” Equinox [another d ’n b the producer]: “Amen will always be And there, no matter what happens. for Even if the scene goes are pure two-step, someone out there But will be using Amen.” And not for the final word on you the matter, Ray Keith [AKA All d ‘n b artist, Renegade]: any “People will never get bored can of it. It’ll just keep Her changing with the times. It’ll was still be used long after one we’re all dead and buried.”


—From “Forever And Ever Amen” out by Joe Madden

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