The Heartbreaking Story Behind the 70-Year-Old Black Man Who Inspired Daft Punk's Biggest Hit

“One More Time” music video by Daft Punk
“One More Time” music video by Daft Punk
Screenshot: Warner Music France/YouTube

Daft Punk’s biggest single ever, “One More Time” is all about encouraging us that it’s “time to celebrate” and to not “stop the dancing.” Personally, I’m always happy to hear the song as it reminds me of jamming to it with my niece, who is probably the biggest fan of theirs that I know.

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The history of the song—and its subsequent legacy—isn’t worth celebrating, however. In fact, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. According to a report published by the L.A. Times on Thursday, 70-year-old Liberian-born Eddie Johns crafted the inspiration behind the song and hasn’t been compensated for it…at all. Johns, who experienced houselessness for about a decade, produced a track in 1979, from which Daft Punk’s hit single was sampled.

More info from the LA Times:

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. Johns’ pleading lyrics about a desperate love — “I’m gonna put a spell on you, because that’s the only thing to do / So that you’ll never get away” — rode an uptempo, brassy production. 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.”

Johns experienced homelessness after suffering a stroke (which made it difficult for him to find work) about 10 years ago. “I just hope I can get some credit, you know?” Johns, who is not listed as a songwriter in the credits for “One More Time,” told the L.A. Times. “I’d like to have something to give to my daughter.”

More Spell On You / Eddie Johns (YouTube)

“My daughter told me about Daft Punk,” Johns continued. “But I didn’t pay attention to what she said at the time because I was no longer in music. But one time, I was at the library in Pasadena, I was listening to a song from my album, and I found a video of engineers talking about how Daft Punk transformed ‘More Spell on You,’ how they were changing the sound.”

The mysteriously elusive French electronic music duo consisting of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter won the Album of the Year Grammy for Random Access Memories in 2014, as well as Record of the Year for their hit single, “Get Lucky,” featuring Pharrell Williams.

“‘One More Time’ contains extracts of the recording ‘More Spell on You.’” a representative for Daft Punk told the L.A. Times. “Daft Life LTD. is paying royalties twice a year to the producer and owner of ‘More Spell on You.’ … Per the agreement it is the duty of the producer of ‘More Spell on You’ to pay (part of such) semiannual payments to Eddie Johns.”

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“We have not heard from [Johns] since the day we acquired in 1995 a catalog from another label that featured this title,” Georges Mary, founder of French label and publishing company GM Musipro, wrote in a statement. “We have tried to do research on him, but without any result. For our part, we are going to study his file and do the accounts to his credit. We will get back to him immediately on this subject, at the same time as we will inform him of his rights.”

Per the Times, Johns has found housing and currently lives in a modest and “very comfortable” one-bedroom apartment. Hopefully, the next bit of good news is that he is fairly compensated for his contribution to such a huge song.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

DISCUSSION

feministonfire
FeministOnFire

As terrible (and typical) and prevalent as this crediting/compensation issue is in the music industry, do I dare say that Daft Punk’s publisher seem to be going above and beyond?! They seem to be saying they’ll do the research on what the Catalog Seller owes the artist from the purchase proceeds and will give that info to him, free?! They don’t have to do that but it undoubtedly smoothes the way for the artist to get his money and not have it eaten up by some attorney’s research & fee charges. It’s both a great humane gesture and a litigation savings & PR Goodwill Gain for them.

This is where we can thank Granola Activists. They lobbied for the Dodd-Frank Act requiring companies to know & document that their products did NOT contain conflict minerals from Africa from their whole supply chain(meaning Ford had to ask not just seat vendors but vendors of leather, leather tanners, thread ink, foam, etc.) to confirm no minerals from the conflict area in Democratic Republic of Congo (and others) were in any of their products. Companies moaned, I’m sure vendors lied, efficacy is debated but...the idea of holding businesses, large and small, responsible for doing their part to stop child soldiers, brutal mining conditions, warlords killing, gov’t stealing national resources for personal gain and so on down the line was at least AN EFFORT. And you can see how that public consciousness-raising can work in the record industry to ensure that a Funky Drummer doesn’t die in poverty.

- Maybe I’m seeing parallels where there are none but my brain misses work.