A Hip-Hop Pioneer in Pain


"The idea is nice, but there's a bigger matter at hand," he said. "The irony is not lost on me that this is happening when [House Republicans] are demanding a repeal of health care reform. Giving him money is putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Herc won't be the only one with this problem. This is going to be an ongoing story."

It is estimated that up to 45 percent of working musicians do not have health insurance, compared to the rest of the country, which is at 15 percent, according to Sweet Relief, which provides assistance to ailing musicians.

"Herc's options in relation to his situation now are zero. This is a pre-existing condition. No one would give him health insurance," said Sweet Relief's director, Rob Max. "All the musicians who thought they were going to retire on royalties now don't have that money."

One such musician is Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, said Max. At 71, Chambers saw his royalties -- for such hits as "Time Has Come Today" and "I Can't Turn You Loose" -- drop from $20,000 to $2,000 a year.

"Last year he was homeless in San Francisco," said Max. "Right now he's living off Social Security, which is $600 a month, royalities and some other small income."

For his part Chang is working with others, like DJ Premier, who discussed Herc on his Sirius radio show, to set up a website where the latest information on Herc's condition can be centralized and people can make a quick donation. Because even Hercules needs a hand sometimes.

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