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Preach On

Lyn Collins

Daniel Krall
Lyn Collins

By Jess Harvell | Posted 12/28/2005

You may have never owned a record with Lyn Collins’ name on it. You may not even recognize the name. But you’ve probably heard her music hundreds, thousands of times. Or at least an eight-second snippet of it.

Collins was born in 1948, in Dime Box, Texas. She began singing for the same reason many poor, young black women in the South did and still do—it was either that, marriage, or a low-paying job (usually some combination of the three). Eventually she married a man who began managing her, as well as promoting the James Brown Revue around Texas. Passed a demo tape, the Godfather put her on retainer, eventually asking her to record and tour with the Revue.

Brown was a notorious taskmaster, but Collins held her own. Her voice—a kind of ragged but not ugly yowl—earned her title “the Female Preacher.” In 1972 she recorded “Think (About It),” written by Collins and produced by Brown. At the height of his high funk period, Brown’s music was the perfect rat-a-tat accompaniment to Collins’ greasy shout. The song reached No. 9 on the Billboard R&B charts.

Collins recorded a few more singles, none of which hit with the force (musically or culturally) of “Think (About It),” as well as two uneven albums of ripping funk and leaden cover versions. And that was about it for Lyn Collins. She intermittently toured the funk revivalist circuit and periodically attempted to reinvent herself with varying degrees of success before dying March 13 at age 56.

Except that in 1988, a song was released that sampled the break from “Think (About It),” turning Collins’ shout into a truncated siren, a heraldic human horn blast. That song was Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock’s “It Takes Two,” which promptly backed up more asses than any other single that year. The beat was fast enough to make it a dance record, catchy enough to make it a pop record, and hard enough to make it a rap record.

Collins’ music—via the JB worship sparked by Eric B and Rakim and others—was reborn. Only the so-called “It Takes Two” beat was so immediately identifiable that hip-hop producers shied away from its scalding power. A few years later, in the United Kingdom, dance-music producers seized the “Think” break—with its snippet of Brown shouting “You’re bad, Hank!” to a kibitzing Hank Ballard or “You’re bad, sister!” to Collins sped up to sound like Alvin the Chipmunk—and made it one of the most recognizable tics in drum ’n’ bass. But as far as America was concerned, that was about it for Lyn Collins, again.

Except in Baltimore, of course. Spurred on by “It Takes Two,” Baltimore club-music producers were so enamored of the “Think” break that they practically built a culture out of it. There’s no easy to way to guess how many tunes use the beat; even in 2005, 33 years after “Think (About It)” was first recorded and 17 years after “It Takes Two,” Rod Lee, DJ Technics, and others are still hammering the “Think” break into people’s butts every weekend.

It’s a rather weird tribute—someone being best remembered for a fraction of a fraction of her life’s work. But the fact that club producers are often just looping the “Think” break means the original “Think (About It)” can still hold its own against any booty-poppin’, speaker-rattlin’ record currently rotating on 92Q.

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