4The Winstons, Creators of One of the Worlds Most Famous Pieces of Music
The modern world is full of little sound clips that you know somebody has to have invented, but you never know who. Like that ding that every elevator does right before the door opens, the sound Windows makes when it boots up or the chirp you get when you turn off a car alarm.
Or like the sound of face being smashed beneath our powerful fists.
The Amen Break is kind of like that.
It's a five-second snatch of drums that has been sampled on hundreds--or thousands--of songs. You've heard it this week. You can find the Amen Break in countless hip-hop, acid house, trance and rave songs. You'll even hear it in ads. Its been slowed down, sped up, spliced, chopped, split, dismembered and used as the basis for seemingly every other song that doesn't use a live band. Experts have even tried to figure out the scientific reason as to why it's so popular.
Maybe they should ask The Winstons, since they came up with it. The Amen Break is just a five-second loop of a drum solo from the middle of one of their songs (called "Amen, Brother") which was just a B-side to a single released in 1969.
So How Did the Creators Make Out?
The Winstons played in an era when trying to establish copyright on a five-second hunk of drums seemed insane. We're guessing their drummer (G.C. Coleman) didn't finish playing and think, "Damn, I bet that drum solo is going to become the cornerstone of several genres of music a generation from now!"
"It'll take two generations, at least."
But even after people started "borrowing" it at will, The Winstons intentionally let the Amen Break spread without ever trying to collect from anyone... even after another company named Zero G copyrighted the Amen break as their own so they could try to cash in instead.
Either The Winstons have reached a greater plane of enlightenment, or they've just been higher than Sputnik for the past 40 years.
3Mikhail Kalashnikov, Creator of the AK-47
We're guessing that in every war your country has participated in during your lifetime, the bad guys were all using the same gun. You can thank Mikhail Kalashnikov.
Uhh... way to go?
In the 1940s, Kalashnikov was a strapping young lad enlisted in the Soviet Army. While in the hospital after having been wounded in World War II, he started designing guns in his spare time. In 1947, he came forward with a rifle he called the Automat Kalashnikov, which you know as the AK-47.
See, Mikhail and his fellow soldiers were fed up with the rifles in use by the Red Army, agreeing that they all pretty much sucked gopher balls.
"That's correct, sir. Gopher balls."
The AK-47 turned out to be one of the most awesome things ever to shoot bullets. It can take a mountain of abuse--from getting dropped in a river to having its barrel loaded with sand--and it will still work like a charm. It's easy to produce and idiot-proof to operate and, in 1949, it became the official rifle of the Soviet Union.
It is also the official rifle of Ice Cube.
Today, it's the most popular assault rifle in the world. Between the real ones and the knockoffs manufactured in China and elsewhere, there are thought to be 100-million fucking AK-47s in circulation in more than 60 countries.
And at least one of those is made completely out of bacon.
With those and just two magazines of ammo for each, you could shoot every man, woman and child on planet Earth.
So this guy has to be the Bill Gates of the gun world, right? The damned thing has his name on it, even if they just sent him $10 for every one sold (and they sell for as much as $500) the man would be a billionaire.
So How Did the Creator Make Out?
Yeah, if you read the Tetris entry up there, you know how this turns out. If the Soviet Union of 1984 wasn't paying off its inventors, the 1947 version sure as shit wasn't. Yes, this is why Communism sucks. Kalashnikov is living in a one-bedroom apartment on the state pension.
The Soviet Union just gave Mikhail a small bonus to thank him for his contribution to the collective and asked him to please build more legendary shit. In 1999, the Izhevsk Machine Shop finally patented the AK-47 after 52 years of heroically ignoring billions of dollars in royalties. Though, we're pretty sure a patent is basically useless at this point. We doubt the Taliban is going to start mailing them royalty checks any time soon.
And even if they did, he probably wouldn't open the envelope.
Recently the Russian government celebrated Kalashnikov's 90th birthday and threw him a nice party. We're sure that totally made up for a lifetime not spent lounging in a gigantic swimming pool shaped like a machine gun, surrounded by Russian models.