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Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2) - the Isley Brothers

Another two part Isley Brothers' hit title (see last post) is Fight the Power (Part 1 & 2) which reached number 4 in the US charts in 1975. Although all three original brothers share the lead vocal, singing together for much of the song, each has moments taking taking the lead, Ronald seizing the moment to interject "bullshit" in place of the word "nonsense" when it was his turn, because, he maintained, "it needed to be said". Bleeped out on the single release, this had an an unintended opposite consequence whereby everyone within hearing distance of radio airplay would yell out the offending word with relish at the appropriate moment. It's the album version here, bullshit unbesmirched with bleeps, to save your vocal chords.

Since their first hit in 1959, the Isley Brothers have demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt their styles to changing musical times, often anticipating what was just round the corner. Beginning with twist and other dance orientated records that influencing the Beatles Hamburg live sets with their phrasing, then playing rockier soul with the young Jimi Hendrix on guitar, plus delivering some of the best classic Motown tracks of the sixties, before being one of the leading exponents of funk, disco and "smooth soul" respectively from the seventies onward.

Here they make a political statement for the first time, railing against an establishment that marginalises black people in everyday small things and everything beyond. Tuning into widespread feeling among black US communities that emancipation was stalling, the Isley's refrain "Fight the Power" became a rallying cry against oppression and would have been heard and sung along to by a bunch of teenage kids from Long Island who later would pick it up in their anthemic 1989 rap classic "Fight the Power". Along with the attitude:

"....When I rolled with the punches I got knocked on the ground. With all this bullshit going down time is truly wastin'.

There's no guarantee smile's in the makin' you gotta fight the powers that be. I don't understand it

people want to see, ya those that got the answers red tape in the way I could take you in easy.

That's just half the fun, oh boy seeking satisfaction keeps me on the run....

....You gotta fight the powers that be.

If you & I can we got the power,

fight it, fight the power, baby, baby...."

Rudolph Isley left the group in 1989 to become a Christian minister. Ronald and brother Ernie continue to record together as the Isley Brothers.


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