As a writer, though thankfully, not a starving one as I have a lovely sugar daddy (thanks, Eric), I hold a deeply personal view that artists should be paid for their work.  Oh, I know, for many truly talented individuals it springs forth unbidden, something they would be doing no matter what.  However, simply because it is as natural as breathing does not negate the fact that it is still work.  I am a big believer in royalty checks, advances and compensation in all its forms as these things lead to other things that I am also in favor of like housing, food and clothing (especially shoes, you can wear them even if you did have beer battered onion rings the night before).  With this in mind, we come to Musical Monday and the Tale of Lester Chambers..

When I first saw the posting about Lester Chambers on Facebook, I couldn’t place the name.  Upon Googling him I found I did know him, although had you told me the names of his songs I still wouldn’t have been able to place him.  Once I played The Chambers Brothers hit, Time Has Come Today, I was shocked to discover it is one of those iconic songs that everyone has heard.  It is a Vietnam War Era anthem.

The reason you are likely to recognize it is that it has been used in over one hundred films, commercials and television shows.  It has been licensed in each of these cases, however, Lester and his brothers never saw any money in these deals.

I’ll let Lester tell this in his own words.  Please note, this guy has been fighting to get what is legitimately owed to him since 1994 and things are STILL being drawn out.

A Letter from Lester Chambers

FROM: LESTER CHAMBERS

DATE: June 30, 2000

TO: Courtney Love

Dear Ms. Love,

Just read your article “Courtney Love Does the Math” [ www.rapstation.com/swapmeet/love.html ] and I would like to make you aware of my plight as a recording artist. My brothers and I recorded over 30 albums as THE CHAMBERS BROTHERS from 1960-1977.

In 1972, we were dropped from Columbia Records after recording 6 albums with them and until 1994 did not receive a penny in royalties because we were still paying on our last album, “OH MY GOD,” which showed on the books as costing over $60,000 for 5 days in the recording studio in 1972. Did you ever read a book called “HIT MEN”? The first 125 pages deals with Clive Davis’ embezzlement of artists funds on Columbia. Need I say more?

Not only did we not get royalties, even though our hit song “TIME HAS COME TODAY” has been used in over 30 films (COMNG HOME, PLATOON, CASUALTIES OF WAR, ETC.) and television shows (right now ABC is using it as their promo for next season’s shows), but Columbia never paid into our pension fund with AFTRA. We joined AFTRA in 1965, when we were the house band on “SHINDIG” and as of 1994 had only 1 year vested into our pension. Of course, we didn’t get any medical insurance, either.

In 1994, along with Sam Moore (SAM & DAVE), Jackie Wilson’s estate, Carl Gardner (COASTERS), Bill Pinkney (DRIFTERS), Curtis Mayfield, etc., we are suing all of the major record companies for pension embezzlement. It has been 6 years and these companies drag us along ,stalling in releasing any documents. At last count, my wife researched that CHAMBERS BROTHERS product is on over 125 compilation albums that we have never received any licensing fees from.

Besides the 6 albums we did on Columbia, we recorded 5 albums with Vault (now owned and currently on the internet from licensing agreements from RHINO RECORDS), 5 with Vanguard (also on the net), 2 with Folkways (also on the net) and 2 with Proverb and 2 with Avco Embassy, THAT WE NEVER RECEIVED A PENNY IN ROYALTIES FROM ANY OF THESE COMPANIES!!!! We have been getting screwed for over thirty years and now with our product on the Internet, we are getting screwed again!!! Last month, Carl Gardner (Coasters), Bill Pinkney (Drifters) who, by the way, will be celebrating his 75th birthday in August, Tony Silvester (Main Ingredient) and myself filed a lawsuit against MP3.com.

We would greatly appreciate any involvement from you regarding fighting these pirates. By the way I noticed you used the word “sharecroppers” several times in this article. Before escaping rural Mississippi in 1953, my father at 75, along with my 13 brothers and sisters were dirt poor sharecroppers on land owned by the head of the local KKK. We grew up learning to sing gospel tunes, while picking cotton in the fields.

Sincerely,
Lester Chambers

Since this letter was written, Mr. Chambers has faced medical problems which went untreated as he lacked health insurance and was recently homeless until Yoko Ono stepped in to help him get a rental.  Earlier this month, in another effort to build awareness and force the record companies to release the funds owed him, Chambers created a Facebook page and released the following photo.

This is an artist whose work has touched all our lives and has colored our shared society. He's simply asking to be paid for the work he did. Why is this a problem?

Our artists, no matter what the medium: paint, song, poetry, are a treasure to this country.  This is not a man asking for charity.  This is an individual demanding their fair due.  Sadly, time is on the recording company’s side, keep dragging things out and they’ll have only the heirs to deal with.  Mr. Chambers is seventy-two, will he ever see things put right?

Please share Lester Chamber’s story, help him make this a viral phenomena, help him collect what is his.  If you’d like to assist with his living  and legal expenses you can do so through the organization Sweet Relief which is helping artists such as The Chamber Brothers:

Sweet Relief

You can find Lester Chambers under the Support By Artist Tab.  Please share this post or Lester’s Facebook photo with as many people as possible.

Thank you in advance, my friends!

Brothers: Lester, Joe, Willie and George with drummer Brian Keenan. Incidentally, one of the first interracial bands, in addition to their other notable attributes.

As a postscript, the online site Wikipedia lists the following as just some of the times the song has been used.

“The song has appeared in many films. Director Hal Ashby used all 11:06 as the backdrop to the climactic scene when Captain Robert Hyde “comes home” to an unfaithful wife in the 1978 Academy Award winning film Coming Home.

Other films it has also been used in include:

  • Babylon Pink (1979)
  • Bad Dreams (1988)
  • Casualities of War (1989)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Crooklyn (1994)
  • Girl, Interrupted (1999)
  • Remember the Titans (2000)
  • Riding the Bullet (2004)
  • Edison Force (2005)
  • Nearing Grace (2005)
  • The Zodiac (2006)
  • Neal Cassady (2007)
  • Talk to Me (2007)
  • Homefront (Video Game-2011

The song has also appeared on television episodes

  • Theme tune used for the time-travel series Seven Days produced by UPN from 1998-2001
  • CSI- Crime Scene Investigation– “Ellie” (2001)
  • Supernatural– “Everybody Loves a Clown (2006)
  • My Name Is Earl– “Monkeys in Space” (2006)

The song was also the title of the first episode of the third season of Grey’s Anatomy.

It was also featured in the 13-episode miniseries by Stephen King  titled Kingdom Hospital.

A shortened version was used as a theme song for the fourth season of Early Edition.

It is the current theme song for the PBS series American Experience.

The song was also featured in the final mission of the video game, Home Front, which was developed by THQ and Kaos Studios.”

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