A Sample Of Why Music Needs To Write A Wrong
One of music's biggest acts got help on their first million-selling single from an artist who today is penniless. Never having received royalties for his work with Grammy award winning Daft Punk, singer songwriter Eddie Johns is homeless.
On the night of Jan. 26, 2014, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk leapt onto the stage at Staples Center to accept the Grammy for album of the year.
Even though the French electronic duo’s faces were hidden behind white and gold robot masks, they couldn’t hide their elation as they waved back to cheers from Jay-Z, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. Their album “Random Access Memories” and its smash single “Get Lucky” were crowning achievements in a career of immaculately produced dance music, played at pop-star scale.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the flatlands of L.A., far from the limos and gowns at Staples Center, Eddie Johns bedded down for the night.
Johns doesn’t remember exactly where in L.A. he was living back then, but it was almost certainly somewhere bleak. The Liberian-born singer, now 70, struggled with homelessness for more than a decade; he had a stroke 10 years ago that left him unable to work and forced him onto the streets or into shelters.
Four decades earlier, he helped put Daft Punk on the path to those Grammys.
In 1979, when he was 28, Johns released an album, “More Spell on You,” with a punchy disco title track he recorded in Paris and released in Europe. It didn’t earn the singer much attention at the time. But when Daft Punk recorded its 2001 album “Discovery,” the duo found it and heard something they liked.
They chopped the track’s champagne-fizzy horn sections into short samples (a portion of a previously recorded song) and, as the band verifies, rearranged them into new hooks for the track “One More Time.” That song became one of Daft Punk’s biggest hits and its first million-selling single. It grew the duo from a respected club-music act into one of the most popular electronic groups on earth. Pitchfork called “One More Time” the fifth-best song of the 2000s, and Rolling Stone called “Discovery” one of the 500 best albums of all time, in any genre.
Among the registered songwriters on “Discovery,” Daft Punk credit sampled material from George Duke (on “Digital Love”), Edwin Birdsong (on “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”) and Barry Manilow (on “Superheroes”), and each earns a portion of the revenue generated by those songs.
But one person they didn’t credit was Eddie Johns. Johns’ name remains missing from the album’s credits. Johns says he hasn’t seen a dime from it.