Lyn Collins and James Brown on stage circa 1972. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
One of the most sampled recordings in the history of Black music started its (sadly modest) crossover to a pop audience in the late summer of 1972. Lyn Collins, the “Female Preacher” who was one of the many soul and funk chanteuses to be mentored by James Brown, entered the Billboard Hot 100 for September 2, 1972 with “Think (About It).”
Collins was married at the age of just 14, to a man who was the local promoter for the James Brown Revue. She told Beat Instrumental in 1973: “I’d been playing little, local clubs and wanted to break into the big time. I watched the various big-name revues which came through town and I decided I best liked the way James Brown worked.
“I started sending tapes to his manager up in Cincinnati and I just kept on nagging Mr. Brown until he gave me an audition,” she went on. “I think he only did it so he could finally get rid of me, but he liked what he heard and asked me to join the show.’
Thus she became a member of Brown’s touring band as female lead in the wake of Vicki Anderson’s departure, and debuted in her own name with the single “Wheel of Life” in 1971. That was on the Godfather’s King label, which he was about to put on hold as he moved to Polydor and his new imprint, People. Collins made that move with him and released the Think (About It) album in 1972, produced by Brown himself.
The title track became a single in June, and was by some way her most successful, entering the soul chart on July 15 and rising to No.9. Its Hot 100 start came at No.90, but it would only rise to No.66, a peak she bettered slightly when she accompanied Brown on “What My Baby Needs Now Is A Little More Lovin’.” That went to No.56 pop and No.17 soul.
But it was the afterlife of “Think (About It)” that made it a massively important and influential cut in the rise and rise of hip-hop. Four segments of the recording were repeatedly sampled, most notably the “Yeah…wooh!” break that was appropriated seemingly everywhere, most notably in the 1988 hit “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. As suggested by the title, that single also leaned heavily on Collins’ vocal line “It takes two to make a thing go right.”
Other artists to lift from “Think (About It)” included Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, the Real Roxanne, De La Soul, Madonna, and even R.E.M. Collins continued to record for People into the mid-1970s, with a second album, Check Me Out If You Don’t Know Me By Now, released in 1975. After her departure from Brown, she sang with Rod Stewart and Dionne Warwick. As her stature belatedly improved in recognition of her unique role in both the soul and hip-hop worlds, she was celebrated on the 2005 compilation Mama Feelgood: The Best of Lyn Collins.
Sadly, that year, her first European tour in her own name, in a double bill with another graduate of Brown’s band, Martha High, would be Collins’ last. After returning home, she died of complications from a seizure on March 13, at the age of just 56.