Word circulated this morning that George “Pops” Chambers has passed away at the age of 88.
The Chambers Brothers – Lester, Joe, Willie, and George – started performing in the late 1950s. They found their niche with “psychedelic soul,” putting a rock spin on soul classics like Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” (which is a song of other significance for me.) The former became a Top 40 hit, while the latter only managed to make it into the 80s on the charts. Drummer Brian Keenen joined the family and kept the beat. (He passed away in 1985 of a heart attack at the age of 42.)
The song that the band is perhaps best known for is the one that I picked for this piece: “Time Has Come Today.” Edited down to about five minutes, it made it all the way up to #11 on the charts in 1968. I, of course, prefer the full version, and used to sneak it in around Daylight Savings Time, especially when I worked overnights on the nights we gained the extra hour. (You have extra time, so what’s spending eleven minutes taking a trip, so to speak?) It’s been inextricably linked to the Vietnam War as well – it’s rare to see old, grainy footage of helicopters over the DMZ and not hear the strains of this song behind it. It’s also the record that became a linchpin for discussion on music royalties: in 2012, images of Lester Chambers filled the Internet. The story was that Chambers had seen no royalty checks from Columbia Records from 1968 to 1994 for the work. Use of the song in the game “Homefront” got the band four thousand dollars, as detailed in this piece. I recall the song appearing in several advertisements over the years, but the “mechanical license” – the rights to the use of the recording – belonged to the record company, not the band. The attention gained got people talking about the band again, sold them some records, and earned the brothers some cash.
You know you want to hear the whole thing. You can hear the LP version of “Time Has Come Today” by clicking here.