For The Record: The Winstons: Amen, Brother

In the first For The Record entry I called the percussion solo from ‘Last Bongo in Belgium’ the Amen break of downtempo music. But what is Amen break? The source of a whole a genre.

The Winstons (top right: GC Coleman)

In 1969 a soul/funk group The Winstons released a single titled ‘Color Him Father’ with a B-side called ‘Amen, brother’. The song is a solid, upbeat (136 BPM, a mystical number) funk song that lasts 2.33. Actually quite a regular song keeping the era and typical instrumentation in mind. However, at 1.26, drummer and singer Gregory C. Coleman performs a short drum break that changed history. Here’s the song:

Of course you knew that sample. It was first utilized by hip-hop dj’s off a break compilation titled Ultimate Breaks & Beats released in 1986 by Breakbeat Lenny. There the solo was edited such a way that dj’s with two turntables could do beat-juggling with it (its tempo was halved), thus creating a loop. When samplers and drum machines gained popularity, the song’s sample became even more famous. It had an impact on everything new and electronic: hip-hop, breakbeat, rave, jungle and of course drum and bass.

Here’s a short video with some details and demonstrations of the impact of the sample:

And here is what many consider the first drum and bass (not jungle!) track heavily featuring the Amen break:


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