Public Enemy, Fight The Power

The Story Of Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power'

The Story Of Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power'

Published Mon, April 10, 2023 at 12:00 PM EDT

'Fight The Power' by Public Enemy has become the group's signature song. The song, written for Spike Lee's breakout film, Do The Right Thing, was originally released in 1989 as part of the movie's soundtrack. When Public Enemy released their third album, Fear of a Black Planet, an extended version of the song was included.

"Fight The Power" became synonymous with Do The Right Thing, and the video, directed by Lee, helped propel the song to massive success. Lee told Time magazine that he needed an anthem for his film that was centered on racial unrest in a Brooklyn neighborhood.

"I wanted it to be defiant and angry," he said. "I wanted it to be rhythmic and immediately thought of Public Enemy." Inspired by The Isley Brothers' 1975 song of the same name, Chuck D has said that he wanted to update the theme of the Isley's single.

I was 15 years old when the Isley Brothers released 'Fight The Power' and it really spoke to me. It was the first time that I heard cursing on a record.

- Chuck D to NPR

Chuck told NPR that 1975 was a serious time in America, especially for Black people, and that the song inspired him before he became a rap artist.

"It signified a time that was kind of confusing to a 15-year-old," he explained. "I got what the '60s were about, but at 15 you're asking a lot of questions anyway, but that spoke to me: 'Fight The Power.'"

Chuck says that 14 years later he was on tour with Run-DMC when he received the request from Spike Lee for an anthem for his new film. "The thing that kept resonating in my mind was the conditions that he was speaking about in the film, and the climate of the time and the hypocrisy of Reagan and Bush."

Chuck described the song as "not one of our strongest songs at all" but said that it spoke to the film as far as what was happening at the time."

"Fight The Power" reached number one on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles and number 20 on Hot R&B. Rolling Stone listed it as number two on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and the Recording Industry Association of America ranked it as number 288 in the Songs of The Century list. The single was certified Gold at the time of its release.

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