Did Daft Punk steal their big hit “One More Time” from this homeless man?
Daft Punk’s “One More Time” remains the biggest hit the electronic duo has ever released. Opening their 2001 album Discovery, the song put Daft Punk on the map, launching their careers into the stratosphere. Daft Punk’s own popularity almost pales in comparison to that of “One More Time”, which Pitchfork has called the fifth-best song of the 2000s.
“One More Time” samples from the song “More Spell On You”. That was the title track for a funk album put out by songwriter Eddie Johns in 1979. While “One More Time” has earned Daft Punk millions of dollars, Eddie Johns – uncredited on the track – hasn’t seen a penny for his work.
Who is Eddie Johns?
Eddie Johns is a songwriter from Liberia who’s worked across America & Europe, and he recorded “More Spell On You” over forty years ago in Paris. Today, he’s seventy years old and struggling to survive in Los Angeles. Ten years ago, Johns had a stroke, rendering him unable to work. Since then he’s been in & out of homeless shelters, often sleeping on the streets of LA.
Johns didn’t hear “One More Time” until years after its release. His daughter told him about the song. While visiting a library in Pasadena, he took the time to listen to it online. His own “More Spell On You” was the heart of the song, despite Daft Punk’s new melody line thrown on top of it.
Sampling from other artists has long been standard practice in the music world. Hip-hop artists first used sampling to pull from music history and reinvent the way songs are constructed. Early on, artists sampled from everywhere they could, with little regard for compensating original songwriters.
That began to change in the early 1990s when artists who’d been sampled began pushing for compensation. A 1991 lawsuit between Irish songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan & Biz Markie changed the power balance between new artists and the music they were sampling from.
These days, artists need to credit songwriters whose work they sample. Giving them proper compensation can be a challenge. Typically an agreement needs to be worked out between the new artist, the original songwriter, and the label that released the song or owns the rights to it.
Half a dozen people or more might need to be paid a portion of the proceeds from a single song including samples. Even with all those parties involved, a song like Daft Punk’s “One More Time” should be worth a significant amount of money to a songwriter like Eddie Johns.
Daft Punk credited a variety of artists as songwriters on their album Discovery. George Duke, Barry Manilow, and Edwin Birdsong all receive a portion of royalties from various songs on the album which sample their work. Eddie Johns, whose songwriting contributed to the album’s biggest hit, has been left by the wayside.
Despite not crediting Johns as a songwriter on the album, Daft Punk continues to pay royalties for permission to sample “More Spell On You”. The money goes to GM Musipro, a French label that acquired the rights to Johns’s song years ago. A spokesperson for the label says that they have tried to find Johns to pay him his due, but so far have been unable to do so.
Daft Punk has retired from their music career, but this lingering issue remains. “One More Time” made Daft Punk’s career what it was. Without Johns’s “More Spell On You”, they might never have become worldwide superstars.
In a recent interview with the LA Times, Johns said that he would have appreciated being paid for his work. He said he always wondered whether or not his song was a success, and that his biggest wish is to have something to leave behind for his daughter. It’s not too late for Johns to be given his fair share.