The Truth About The Homeless Man Who Inspired A Daft Punk Song

February 22, 2021, marked the end of an era, as that was the day that French electronic music act Daft Punk announced that they were breaking up. As reported by Pitchfork, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo teamed up to form Daft Punk way back in 1993, and in the years that followed, they became one of the biggest house music acts in the world, a familiar name even to non-fans who instantly recognized them from their distinctive robot outfits and helmets. Bangalter and de Homem-Cristo also collaborated with some of today's biggest hitmakers, including the likes of Kanye West and The Weeknd, as they remained relevant well into their second decade as a duo.

Much like the aforementioned helmets and robot suits, Daft Punk was also very well-known for recording songs with lyrics so simple, anyone could sing along to them. Their first million-selling single, "One More Time," may not have had lyrics as repetitive as those on "Around the World" — seriously, can you top 144 repetitions of the song's title (via Songfacts) as its only lyrics?  But the title made for a great hook, and the horn sections further helped to enhance its reputation as a party anthem. What you may not know, however, is that the artist whose song was prominently sampled on "One More Time" has been dealing with homelessness for years and has yet to be paid or credited for the sample two decades after the fact, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Eddie Johns' More Spell on You was sampled on One More Time

Most casual music fans likely won't recognize the name Eddie Johns. Even in France, where he was based during his time as a disco singer, it's likely that the Liberian-born musician's name won't ring a bell. But it was the title track of his 1979 album "More Spell on You" that served as the inspiration for Daft Punk when they recorded "One More Time," the carrier single from their 2001 album "Discovery," as explained by the Los Angeles Times. Specifically, the duo sampled the horns from the original song and transformed them into brand-new hooks for the future million-seller.

Johns had a middle-class upbringing in Liberia, where he was one of seven children of an accountant father and a mother who worked as a nurse. In 1977, when he was around 26 years old, he moved to France in hopes of making it big as a singer, and one year later, he recorded his first single — a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' 1950s classic "I Put a Spell on You." "I recorded it in one breath," Johns told the Times. "I thought, 'My mom is going to be so surprised.' I just wanted to make her proud and maybe get her some money."

After touring a bit to promote his single, Johns recorded the aptly titled "More Spell on You," which featured a mix of covers and originals, including the catchy, horn-laden title track.

Johns hasn't been paid for Daft Punk's use of his song

Sadly, Eddie Johns has not been paid a cent for Daft Punk's sampling of "More Spell on You" on "One More Time." Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the singer lamented the fact that he was not credited by Daft Punk on "One More Time" and expressed hope that his family would one day recognize that his music somehow made a cultural impact, even if it was sampled by a far more famous act.

In a statement, a representative for Daft Punk told the publication that they have been paying royalties so that the sample from "More Spell on You" could be officially licensed. "Daft Life LTD. is paying royalties twice a year to the producer and owner of 'More Spell on You,'" they continued. "Per the agreement, it is the duty of the producer of 'More Spell on You' to pay (part of such) semiannual payments to Eddie Johns."

Currently, the rights to "More Spell on You" are owned by French label GM Musipro, which reissues classic rock and pop albums. The company's founder, Georges Mary, told the Los Angeles Times that his label is indeed receiving an unspecified amount of money from Daft Punk for the rights to sample the song, but noted that he hasn't heard from Johns since 1995. "For our part, we are going to study his file and do the accounts to his credit," Mary added. "We will get back to him immediately on this subject, at the same time as we will inform him of his rights."

Johns has been homeless for about a decade

Aside from how he hasn't been paid for the use of his most famous song, Eddie Johns has also spent several years struggling with homelessness. According to the Los Angeles Times, the musician originally came to the United States so he could live in New York with his sister after his singing career in France fizzled out. It was sometime around 2003 when Johns moved to L.A. with his daughter because of its sunnier climate, and at first, he was able to support himself and pay for his own apartment. But when he suffered a stroke in the early 2010s, he was no longer able to work, and that forced him to live on the streets and in various homeless shelters in the Los Angeles area.

Johns told the Times that being homeless kept him apart from his daughter, who has since returned to France. "I didn't want to expose her to that life," he explained. "It was a very hard time. The shelter life broke me up."

Since 2019, Johns has been living in the Pico-Union complex of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless), a Los Angeles-based supportive housing charity. According to the Times, his typical day is spent reading Bible verses and on occasion, writing songs. While he still wishes he can have a piece of the royalties for "One More Time," he told the publication that at this point in his life, he's "blessed that [he's] still here."