The Amen Break – A Sample

Written by on December 13, 2023

The Amen Break – A Sample – by Liam Sweeny.

Do you like sampling? Not talking about a trip around the charcuterie board, but sampling beats in music. Not so much? But you like to listen to sampled beats if you have any foot in contemporary music. Sampling can be a touchy subject for fans and artists alike, fans questioning originality and artists having to question the legality of using another band’s- or performer’s music.

But there is one sample that stands out in the world of sampling. In fact, it’s been used 4,500 times by artists ranging from NWA to the opening song for Fox’s Futurama. It is called the “Amen Break.”

The Amen Break is a small bit of drumming from the 1969 song “Amen, Brother” by funk band The Winstons. It was the B-Side of the single “Color Him Father.” This break is like 7 seconds long. Seriously, 7 seconds. And it has been used by everybody, cut, sliced, sped up, slowed down. This is the womanizing gumshoe of music (I’m a writer and that’s all I got. Maybe if you’re an artist, it’s gesso.)

Richard Lewis Spencer, who wrote the song, said he didn’t get any royalties for its use, and was pissed because the statute of limitations was up on copyright infringement by the time he even knew people were using it. Now he’s flattered. If I were him, I’d be able to manage flattered and pissed at the same time.

So with a beat so universal in so many genres, you have to maybe look at it as, like I said, gesso, or a shady gumshoe trope out of Raymond Chandler books. Chefs use salmon. We don’t decry their lack of using some original meat. I don’t even want to know what an original meat is. Probably grown in a lab. But no, they have salmon, and everybody else has salmon, and I taste a universe of difference between the salmon in a four-star restaurant and the salmon that comes out of my air-fryer (don’t judge.)

You know, they should have an Amen-core, a whole genre dedicated to people using that break. Someone call Rolling Stone. And I’m getting royalties for my idea, bet.



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