Articles Comments

» 1970s, Pop » Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas

Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas

Everyone loves “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas. There’s something deeply satisfying about any song that uses the stereotypical oriental riff. I love it in “Kung Fu Fighting.” I love the same riff in “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors.

It’s not politically correct. It’s not brilliant songwriting. But it sets the stage and suddenly an African-American man singing about Kung Fu Fighting makes perfect sense.

“Kung Fu Fighting” takes us back to the early 1970s when Bruce Lee was the toughest man in the world and David Carradine was roaming the American West in the TV series Kung Fu. While I understand the allure of Hong Kong fight films from any era, I never really wrapped my head around the merits of Kung Fu. How that TV show became iconic and stayed on the air for three seasons is a mystery.

But it’s no mystery why “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas became a #1 hit in 1974 and transformed Carl Douglas from wannabe rock star to full-fledged one-hit wonder. Just listen to the song. We’re fairly certain at some point while listening you are going to chop a table in half or spontaneously kick the person next to you in the side of the head. The song is that good. So please warn your neighbors.

Click to hear other Billboard number-one hit one-hit wonders

Why did Douglas write “Kung Fu Fighting” I hear you asking? I don’t really know. Douglas isn’t even sure himself, having cited the inspiration as both watching a Kung Fu movie and watching two kids Kung Fu Fighting on the street.

Click here to read the “Kung Fu Fighting” lyrics

Regardless, I’m glad to have the song to add to a short list of Asian-influenced one-hit wonders (at this point, that list only includes “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors and “Kung Fu Fighting” but I’ll keep listening and looking for connections. If you can think of another Asian-influenced one-hit wonder, please let me know.)

We’re also impressed that Douglas tried to force hit-song lightning to strike twice when he released “Dance the Kung Fu.” You can’t get any more blatantly or transparently obvious about how desperately you want a follow-up hit with that approach. But frankly, I can’t blame Douglas. How many of you have performed Kung Fu moves on American TV? Once you get a taste for that sweet action, it’s hard to give it up.

And for the record, “Kung Fu Fighting” was ranked #100 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders.

Listen to “Kung Fu Fighting

Written by

I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

Filed under: 1970s, Pop · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to "Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas"

  1. John W says:

    Alphaville’s song ‘Big in Japan’ has a very oriental intro, and I think they are a one hit wonder too (with the song Forever Young).

    How about ‘One Night in Bangkok’? Not sure if that was a hit in the US, but on other parts of the world it was.

  2. Michael Waterman says:

    John,

    The two Alphaville “hits” were great little new-wave songs from 1984. But neither “Big in Japan” or “Forever Young” hit the Billboard Top 40 in the United States. “Big in Japan” hit #66 in the US, while the original release of “Forever Young” only reached #93 in 1984. However,”Forever Young” was re-released in 1988 yet still only hit #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. But you’re right; most people consider Alphaville a one-hit wonder. Especially if you watched MTV or listened to alternative radio stations in the early 1980s. We consider them a non-traditional one-hit wonder.

    Murray Head is not a one-hit wonder, even though virtually everyone knows him only for “One Night in Bangkok.” He actually hit the Billboard Top 40 in 1971 with his recording of “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar that reached #14 on the charts. That disqualifies him as a one-hit wonder and makes Murray Head a two-hit wonder instead. Drop that piece of trivia on your friends and you will look like a music savant. By the way, “One Night in Bangkok” was huge in the US, reaching #3 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1984.

    Great suggestions. Please keep reading and suggesting songs you want to read about.
    Michael

  3. NGII says:

    Several songs come to my mind, but I almost sure that these songs did not hit the Billboard Top 40:
    Aneka – Japanese Boy (1981): an UK one hit wonder
    Siouxsie & The Banshee – Hong Kong Garden (1978)
    Sandra Cretu – Hiroshima (1990): she was big in Europe, virtually unknown in the US

  4. John Wilson says:

    Do you think there is any chance this song influenced the cartoon Hong Kong Phooey later on in 1974?

    Remember it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW54W9y6-eU

  5. Michael Waterman says:

    John,

    Loved Hong Kong Phooey. Haven’t seen a clip in years. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Joshua says:

    Even though it was never released as a single, it’s worth noting that Rush’s “A Passage To Bangkok” also featured the classic Asian riff (during the intro, and again just before the last chorus).

  7. Kimberly Pryor says:

    “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto 1963
    Not really Asian-themed, since it’s actually in Japanese, but it was a #1 one-hit wonder in the US.

Leave a Reply