Redbone's 'Come and Get Your Love' Made History 50 Years Ago: NPR

Founded by brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas, Redbone scored a Top 5 hit in 1974 with “Come and Get Your Love,” launching their native style and influences into the pop conversation.

Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy


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Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy

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Founded by brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas, Redbone scored a Top 5 hit in 1974 with “Come and Get Your Love,” launching their native style and influences into the pop conversation.

Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy

This month marks 50 years since President Richard Nixon did that facing impeachment. Hank Aaron destroyed Babe Ruth's home run record. Leaders of the American Indian Movement were on trial after the armed standoff at Wounded Knee. And the song “Come and get your love” was one of the biggest hits on radio.

This soulful pop song from the band Redbone was in a way related to what was going on politically. It became the first song by an all-indigenous and Mexican-American band to score the hit Billboard Top 10, peaking at number 5 on April 13, 1974.

Since its release on Redbone's 1973 album Wovoka“Come and Get Your Love” has been used in commercials, in TV shows, including the Netflix series F stands for family and in movies. The song conquered a new generation of fans in 2014, then actor Chris Pratt danced to it in Marvel's opening scene Guardians of the universe.

Musician Stevie Salas remembers first hearing “Come and Get Your Love” when he was in sixth grade in Oceanside, California, where it was played at a school dance. Salas, who is Apache, has played guitar with musicians such as Rod Stewart, Bootsy Collins, Mick Jagger and Justin Timberlake. He is also executive producer of a documentary about indigenous musicians called Rumble: Indians who turned the world upside down. But when he was in sixth grade, he had no idea that the musicians behind “Come and Get Your Love” were Native and Mexican-American — until he saw them on TV.

“Redbone showed up and they were all dressed as Natives. I mean, that was just stunning,” Salas recalls. “But at the same time, you saw people dressed like that, you know, on Halloween. So I don't know, are they real Indians? That's how it is. But they sure look cool.”

Redbone added a traditional Native intro to “Come And Get Your Love” when the band performed it The midnight special in 1974.


The midnight special
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The pompadour years

Redbone's founders had always cultivated a striking look, although the decision to showcase their indigenous culture on stage took time.

Brothers Pat and Lolly Vasquez grew up in Fresno, California. According to Pat's MemoirsTheir mother was Shoshone, while their father had both Mexican and indigenous roots, including Yaqui, Papago and Navajo. Their maternal grandfather was a Texarkana musician who played Cajun and Mariachi music, and who taught Pat and Lolly to play guitar. When the brothers started playing as a duo, Pat switched to bass.

In the late 1950s, the two began performing in and around Los Angeles, from sock hops to family picnics. After a music industry veteran recommended changing their last name to appeal to white talent bookers, they put a spin on their stepfather's name, De La Vega, and changed it to Pat & Lolly Vegas. Their stage style at this time was suits and sleek pompadours: “We used to get our hair done and all that stuff. We had a real straight look,” recalls Pat Vegas, who at 83 is the last remaining original member . from Redbone. (Lolly Pop died in 2010.)

In addition to club performances, the Vegas brothers were session musicians and songwriters. They appeared in the 1967 beach comedy It's a bikini worldand collaborated with other musicians to record surf music under the name The Avantis.

Before forming Redbone, brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas were a popular duo who played Los Angeles clubs and on the TV show Shindig! in 1964.

YouTube

The Vegas brothers were successful in making music that appealed to the mainstream. But they were also inspired by the civil rights movement and by indigenous activists who challenged poverty because of reservations, broken treaties and other injustices. “Our friends went out there and marched and protested,” says Pat Vegas, explaining that as entertainers they wanted to show the world a more accurate portrayal of indigenous people. “Because it was overlooked. They saw us in Western movies being chased by the cowboys, and we didn't want to be part of that. We wanted to show that we had grown and that we were part of the future.”

Pat & Lolly Vegas eventually ditched the pompadours and wanted to form a band of all Native and Mexican-American players. They were joined by rhythm guitarist Tony Bellamy, who was of Mexican and Yaqui descent, and drummer Pete DePoe, who was Cheyenne. They grew their hair long and began performing on stage in native clothing. The choice wasn't just a response to the politics of the moment, Vegas says – it was who they were.

“My mother was proud of her Native American roots, and so am I,” he says. “So automatically we knew what we wanted, and the sound just came out, and it was beautiful. I just wanted to be real.”

A sound that is both political and 'all about love'

The new group called itself Redbone, a slang term that some may find offensive, although members said they used it to mean mixed race. The band signed with Epic Records and began creating its own sound, which Vegas called “Native American swamp rock”.

In 1973, a group of indigenous activists occupied the town of Wounded Knee in South Dakota – the same place where hundreds of Lakota activists lived 83 years earlier. had been slaughtered by American soldiers. Pat Vegas says he “felt the struggle” and wanted to contribute.

YouTube

For Redbone's album Wovoka, Vegas wrote the song “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee.” The song became a hit in Europe, but CBS refused to release it in the US, fearing it would be too controversial. Vegas has said he understood the company's reasoning and that he was not angry (although some scientists, such as a professor at the University of Idaho Jan Johnsonhave called it a missed opportunity and an example of 'historical amnesia' around events that make us feel uncomfortable).

However, there was another song on it Wovoka which the label thought could be a hit. As Pat Vegas tells it, he and his brother were working on “Come and Get Your Love” late one night in Philadelphia, where they performed a series of performances. The next day it was ready.

In his memoirs, Pat claims that the song was co-written by both of them, but that Lolly claimed sole credit for it from the label. He writes that although he was “shocked” and “furious” with his brother, he chose to remain silent, believing that making a stink would damage Redbone's reputation. When I asked how the disagreement affected their relationship, he says, “We got over it.”

'A sound that was so inclusive'

“Com and Get Your Love” released 18 weeks in the Top 40 and was the fourth most popular song of Billboard's Hot 100 for 1974. In the years that followed, his presence continued to resonate in pop: the Eurodance group Real McCoy released a club-ready coverCyndi Lauper updated her own “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” grinding it featuring Redbone's hit – and in 2020, Sony's Legacy Recordings released the first official version of the song video clipan animated short film by Indigenous artist Brent Learned and producer and director Juan E Bedolla.

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Taboo Nawasha of the Black Eyed Peas says Redbone has “kicked in the door” for indigenous musicians like him.

Taboo Nawasha


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Taboo Nawasha

In the 1970s, the song's enormous popularity gave the members of Redbone a platform to show pride in their indigenous heritage. Rapper Taboo Nawasha of chart-toppers The Black Eyed Peas says this is what he, another musician of indigenous and Mexican descent, strives for in his music.

“With a sound that was so inclusive, [“Come and Get Your Love”] The idea was for everyone to come and rock out,” says Nawasha. “Redbone kicked in the door and said, 'We're proud to be Native, look at us. We are here, we are alive and we are going to bring that great energy and that good medicine to the world.” “

Looking back on the song 50 years later, Pat Vegas says many people think 'Come and Get Your Love' is about romance. They're not completely wrong, but there's more to it than that.

“It's love everywhere, in every facet and every part of your being, you know?” he says. 'And that is the message: What's going on with your mind and your zodiac sign? Come and get your love. In other words, where you come from and who you are doesn't matter as much as what you believe and what you feel.”

The audio version of this story was edited by Rose Friedman and produced by Isabella Gomez Sarmiento. The digital version was edited by Daoud Tyler-Ameen.

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