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Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ made history 50 years ago : NPR

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

Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy


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Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy


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

Sandy Speiser/Courtesy of Sony Legacy

Fifty years ago this month, President Richard Nixon faced impeachment proceedings. Hank Aaron broke 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 the radio.

This pop-soul song by the band Redbone was, in some way, connected to what was happening politically. It became the first song by an exclusively Native American and Mexican group to wow the audience. Billboard Top 10, peaking at No. 5 on April 13, 1974.

Since its release on Redbone’s 1973 album Wovoka“Come and Get Your Love” has been used in commercials and television shows, including the Netflix series. F is for family and in the movies. The song won over a new generation of fans in 2014, when actor Chris Pratt danced to it in the opening scene of Marvel’s. guardians of the galaxy.

Musician Stevie Salas remembers first hearing “Come and Get Your Love” when he was in sixth grade in Oceanside, California, 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: the Indians who shook the world. But in sixth grade, he didn’t know the musicians behind “Come and Get Your Love” were Native American and Mexican — until he saw them on television.

“Redbone showed up and they were all dressed like natives. I mean, it was just breathtaking,” Salas recalled. “But at the same time, you would see people dressed like that, you know, on Halloween. So I don’t know, are they real Indians? That’s what it is. But they look really cool.”

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


The midnight special
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The Pompadour years

Redbone’s founders have always cultivated a striking look, even if 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 memoir, their mother was Shoshone, while their father had both Mexican and Indigenous roots, including Yaqui, Papago, and Navajo. Their maternal grandfather was a musician from Texarkana who played Cajun and mariachi music and who taught Pat and Lolly to play guitar. When the brothers began playing as a duo, Pat switched to bass.

In the late 1950s, the two began playing concerts in and around Los Angeles, ranging from stocking parties to family picnics. After a music industry veteran recommended they change their last name to appeal to white talent bookers, they changed their stepfather’s name, De La Vega, to Pat & Lolly Vegas. Their stage style in those days consisted of suits and slicked-back pompadours: “We used to get our hair done and stuff. We had a really straight look,” recalls Pat Vegas, who, at 83, is the last surviving original member of Redbone. (Lolly died in 2010.)

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

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

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The Vegas brothers succeeded in creating music that appealed to the general public. But they were also inspired by the civil rights movement and by Native activists who spoke out against poverty on reservations, broken treaties and other injustices. “Our friends would go out there and march and protest,” says Pat Vegas, explaining that as artists they wanted to show the world a more accurate representation of indigenous people. “Because it was overlooked. They saw us in Western movies being chased by cowboys, and we didn’t want to be a part of that. We wanted to show that we had grown up and were part of the future.”

Pat & Lolly Vegas finally ditched the pompadours and decided to form a group comprised entirely of Native American 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 costume. The choice wasn’t just a reaction to the politics of the day, 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 came out that way, and it was beautiful. I just wanted to be real.”

A sound that is both political and “loving”

The new group called itself Redbone, a slang term that some might find offensive, although members said they used it to refer to a mixed race. The band signed with Epic Records and set about creating their own sound, what Vegas called “Native American swamp rock.”

In 1973, a group of indigenous activists occupied the town of Wounded Knee in South Dakota – the same site where, 83 years earlier, hundreds of Lakota were massacred by American soldiers. Pat Vegas said he “felt the struggle” and wanted to help.

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

There was, however, another song on Wovoka that the label thought could be a success. As Pat Vegas tells it, he and his brother worked on “Come and Get Your Love” late at night in Philadelphia, where they were performing a series of concerts. It was finished the next day.

In his memoir, Pat claims that the song was co-written by the two of them, but that Lolly claimed sole credit for it with the label. He writes that although he was “appalled” and “furious” at his brother, he chose to remain silent, believing that raising a stink would damage Redbone’s reputation. When I asked him how the disagreement affected their relationship, he replied, “We got over it.” »

“Such an inclusive sound”

“Come and Get Your Love” spent 18 weeks in the Top 40 and was the fourth most popular song on Billboard‘s Hot 100 in 1974. In the years since, her presence has continued to resonate across pop: Eurodance group Real McCoy released a club-ready cover, Cyndi Lauper updated her own “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” while mixing it. with Redbone’s hit – and, in 2020, Sony’s Legacy Recordings released the first official music video for the song, an animated short film by Indigenous artist Brent Learned and producer and director Juan E Bedolla.

Taboo Nawasha of the Black Eyed Peas says Redbone “opened 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 their pride in their indigenous heritage. Rapper Taboo Nawasha of the chart-topping Black Eyed Peas says that’s what he, another musician of Native American and Mexican ancestry, strives to achieve in his music.

“With such an inclusive sound, (‘Come and Get Your Love’) allowed everyone to come and let loose,” says Nawasha. “Redbone kicked down the door and said, ‘We’re proud to be indigenous, look at us. We’re here, we’re alive and we’re going to bring this great energy and good medicine to the world.’ “

Reflecting on the song 50 years later, Pat Vegas says many people think “Come and Get Your Love” is about romance. They’re not entirely wrong, but there’s more to it than that.

“It’s love everywhere, in every facet and in every part of your being, you know?” he says. “And here is the message: What is wrong with your mind and your sign? Come and take your love. In other words, where you come from and who you are doesn’t matter as much as what you believe and how 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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