Monday, November 12, 2007

The Winstons - "Color Him Father" (1968)

The Winstons, whoever they were, released this catchy, slightly sentimental single at the height of the Vietnam War. Little did they know that not only would it go on to be a smash, but its flip side would turn out to be one of the most utilized breakbeat samples to this very day.

Starting off as the opposite of the Intruders' "I'll Always Love My Mama," this first-person paean to a loving warm father who comes home every day after each hard day of work, preaches good education to get ahead, and "never a frown always a smile."

By the time it rolls into verse two, it's revealed that this man is not really the narrator's father but somebody who married his mother after "my real old man, he got killed in the war." And then he goes in for the teary final lines:

She said she thought that she could never love again
And then there he stood with that big wide grin
He married my mother and he took us in
And now we belong to the man with that big wide grin.

This is a big snappy song, and I sometimes thought the background vocalists sounded distinctly "white" (for some reason, Jay and The Americans came to mind?). I love the horn and string arrangements, and one of the beauties of 60's soul music, the grooving Fender licks you can hear underneath it all.

I didn't realize until I just looked it up -- "Color Him Father" won its composer, Richard Lewis Spencer, the 1970 Grammy Award for "R&B Songwriter of the Year, the same year Spencer left the music business.

OK, it's a great song, and you can hear it on the YouTube clip below, but flip it to the b-side and you get the gospel tune "Amen, Brother." A 5-second clip of the drummer became one of the most used samples in hip hop and other dance music. It eventually became known as "The Amen Break," and just about every urban music producer and composer knows exactly what it is.

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