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STORY OF SONG

“Fight the Power” is the twentieth track from American hip-hop group Public Enemy’s third studio album “Fear of a Black Planet”, released in 1990.

“Fight the Power” comes from director Spike Lee approaching Public Enemy and asking them to create a song for one of his upcoming films: “Do the Right Thing”. The track was meant to be used as a leitmotif (a short constantly reoccurring musical phrase – usually associated with a person or place) in the film about racial tension in Brooklyn, New York. In an interview with Time magazine in 1990, Lee spoke about his decision to contact Public Enemy: “I wanted it to be defiant, I wanted it to be angry, I wanted it to be very rhythmic. I thought right away of Public Enemy”. Chuck D (Carlton Ridenhour) stated that the inspiration for the track came to him as he was flying over Italy during their Run’s House tour: “I wanted to sorta have like the same theme as the original ‘Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers and fill it in with some kind of modernist views of what our surroundings were at that particular time.” Chuck D also spoke to Keyboard magazine in 1990: “Fight the Power’ has, like, 17 samples in the first 10 seconds. For example, there’s three different drum loops that make one big drum loop: One is a standard Funkadelic thing, another is a Sly [Stone] thing, and I think the third is the Jacksons.”

There are three videos for the track, but the official one was filmed in Brookyln in New York, showing scenes of Public Enemy at a political rally but also performing live. The other two videos were directed by Spike Lee; one featuring scenes from his film “Do the Right Thing”, and then a video of a staged political rally in Washington in March 1963, where people were marching for “Young People’s March to End Racial Violence”. The original video has over 13.4 million views on YouTube, uploaded by a user called “Junkie Doe” in 2008.

Release Date: June 1989

Songwriter/s: Carlton Ridenhour, Eric Sadler, Hank Boxley & Keith Boxley

Producer/s: The Bomb Squad

Label/s: Motown

Chart Rankings & Accolades: “Fight the Power” ranked #30 in the Netherlands, #29 in the UK, and #3, #20 and #1 on US Billboard charts – all in its first year of release. The track is undoubtably Public Enemy’s most well-known song and has been named one of the greatest songs of all time by many critics and publications. In 2001, “Fight the Power” was ranked at #288 in the “Songs of the Century” list created by the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Tala Woods

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