'Come And Get Your Love' By Redbone: American Indians In The Top 40
“Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone made waves in 1974, reaching #5 on Billboard's Hot 100. The catchy earworm spent an impressive 18 weeks in the Top 40, selling a million copies, and becoming certified gold by the RIAA. Written and produced by Native American and Mexican brothers, Pat and Lolly Vegas, the song made Redbone the first Native American band to ever reach Billboard’s top five.
The Hall of Fame karaoke song reached an entire new generation in 2014 when superhero movie Guardians Of The Galaxy featured “Come and Get Your Love'' in its opening. There’s nothing like Chris Pratt rocking out to your song (and singing into a space-lizard like it's a microphone) to put it right back in the zeitgeist.
Redbone began when brothers Patrick and Candido "Lolly" Vasquez formed a band in 1959 and began playing Los Angeles clubs. Patrick’s win at a local singing competition, earning a record deal helped build their momentum in the L.A club scene. For 10 years they played clubs under their own name before famed agent Bumps Blackwell recommended they change from Vasquez to Vegas in order to appeal to a wider and whiter audience. As Blackwell, who also represented Little Richard and Sam Cooke, said, “the world was not yet ready to embrace a duo of Mexican musicians playing surfing music."
From The Vegas Brothers to Redbone
According to Patrick Vegas, it was Jimi Hendrix, who was part Cherokee himself, who inspired the band to embrace their Native American roots and become Redbone. Redbone is a Cajun term for mixed-race and under their new title, the group signed a record deal with Epic Records in 1969. In addition to the Vegas brothers, the band consisted of Peter DePoe, who was also Native American (Southern Cheyenne, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and Rogue River/Siletz) and Tony Bellamy (Yaqui-Mexican). Their rock music mixed with Cajun, R&B, soul, funk, Latin, and country created a toe-tapping sound.
Their 1970 debut album Redbone failed to gain a ton of traction but did show off their self-described "King Kong Beat." Three years later, third LP Message From A Drum (released overseas as The Witch Queen Of New Orleans) climbed all the way to #21 in the US and as high as #2 in the UK. With the world’s Redbone appetite properly whetted, they released their fifth album Wovoka, which featured the absolute banger of "Come And Get Your Love."
The group undoubtedly owes the song’s success to a key editing decision. To really get radio stations behind the song, the band cut it from 7 and a half minutes to two. As Pat Vegas remembers, “The radio station wouldn’t play it. So I went into the studio at 3:00 in the morning, didn’t get out until 1:00 the next day, and it went from seven-and-a-half minutes to two, and then it was a hit.”
Proudly Native American
As “Come and Get Your Love” rocked the nation, Pat Vegas perfectly communicated why:
The music has balls and Scotch. It’s just a fusion of all those energies and it just gets us off. You’ve got to let yourself be open to it, you’ve got to let yourself be carried by it, in order to reach that energy level where you feel it, not only hear it and feel like dancing to it, but you feel it physically.
People all over the world were feeling it as Redbone rose to international prominence. During concerts and appearances on TV shows including Midnight Special, the bands would wear beaded headbands and other traditional Native American garb to fully express their proud heritage.
Incorporating and sharing their ancestry became very important to the band members as they became heroes of Native Americans everywhere. “Back then, we did what we had to do onstage to show our heritage. We were always fighting for recognition through our music,” said Pat Vegas. "Bringing our sound and our culture was the way to fight the good fight. The song has a deeper meaning of a spiritual, religious, and universal love. When we say in the song ‘Come and get your love, get it from the main vine,’ that connects to Mother Earth. We are all longing for love.”
Today, Redbone continues to record music from California and play venues around the country. Unfortunately, Pat Vegas remains the last man standing as the other original members have passed away. Vegas recently created a documentary detailing the band’s story. As Pat puts it, “This film visually really takes you on a journey and reminds us that the sky’s not the limit; it’s only the view. It’s something to help the young understand the old, one is silver the other gold, both are valuable."