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Thread: Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    If you want to hear the other 19, you'll have to follow the link.
    Hey, Gene, I don't really understand why they included 'Ebony and Ivory' on that list. It's kinda ridiculous that they did, because IMO there's nothing offensive (or creepy) about it.

    OTOH, I don't understand why they didn't include THIS song for lyrics that are beyond a little bit creepy (it's a song about a little sister):

    Last edited by Jimbo; 04-13-2018 at 10:38 AM.

  2. #32
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    Some one should redo Ebony & Ivory as a rap song.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Hey, Gene, I don't really understand why they included 'Ebony and Ivory' on that list.
    Don't ask me, man. It's not my list.

    I've always thought some of those songs were negative commentary, like Brown Sugar for example. They bring to light some past sin or atrocity. Unfortunately with Brown Sugar, Mick's singing totally obscures the slavery lyrics so it just sounds like he's singing about black women.

    But point taken on Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting. I'm just tired of that tune. I was a groomsman at one of my best friend's wedding and they played that as my 'entrance' song, and had it not been such a joyous day, I would've been offended.
    Gene Ching
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  3. #33
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    I'm with you on Kung Fu Fighting. I've been bored with it since way back in 1974, not long after it started playing on the radio.

    I always hated 'Turning Japanese'. The band said it could have been anything, but they randomly picked 'Japanese'. If you hear the lyrics, that's total BS. There's reference to having a girl's picture all over, and wanting a doctor to photograph her so he can look at her 'from inside as well'. I always figured it was referencing the old stereotype of the creepy little Japanese photographer/tourist and his obsession with cameras and white women. Or maybe I assumed more than was intended, but I still hate that song with a passion.

    Another 'song' that should've made the list is Black Korea by Ice Cube. Some of the most racist garbage ever put to a 'song', and I don't care WHY it was written.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 04-13-2018 at 11:12 AM.

  4. #34
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    $5m


    How much is Carl Douglas Worth?
    in Richest Celebrities › Singers


    Carl Douglas net worth:
    $5 Million

    Carl Douglas net worth: Carl Douglas is a Jamaican recording artist who has a net worth of $5 million. Carl Douglas was born in Kingston, Jamaica in May 1942. He is best known for his 1974 disco hit single "Kung Fu Fighting". Douglas released his debut studio album Kung Fu Fighting and Other Great Love Songs in 1974 and the album reached #1 on the US R&B charts and #37 on the Billboard 200 chart. He also released the albums Love Peace and Happiness in 1977 and Keep Pleasing Me in 1978. His single "Kung Fu Fighting" reached #1 in the US as well as in the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Carl Douglas had some success with his next single "Dance The Kung Fu" which reached #5 in Germany. His single "Kung Fu Fighting" (re-issue with Bus Stop) reached #1 in New Zealand.

    "Kung Fu Fighting" Royalties And Production: Douglas originally rented studio space and hired session musicians to record a cover version of a song called "I Want Give You My Everything". That song was recorded to be the A-side of a record. So they needed a B-side. Carl's producer asked him if he had anything else they could record quickly. The first thing that came to mind was an unpolished jingle Carl had written earlier that year after leaving a nightclub. As he walked down the street he saw a group of teenagers in a pinball alley mock fighting to the sound of the music that was fighting. Carl said to his friend "****. Looks like everyone is kung fu fighting." At that moment he had the hook and the chorus in his mind and rushed home to write down the music and lyrics. Fast forward to the recording session, Carl laid down the final version in two takes. The A&R staff at his record label thought the song was so good that it should be the A-side, not the B-side. Within weeks, the song was #1 in the US and England. The song has been covered a number of times including most notably be Cee-Lo Green for the movie "Kung Fu Panda". The song has also been used in its original form in hundreds of movies and TV shows. As the song's sole-credited writer and performer, Carl enjoys an extraordinarily high royalty percentage on the song. Even some 35+ years later, he still earns several hundred thousand dollars in royalties every year, minimum.
    Honestly, how hard is it to get a pic of Carl Douglas?
    Gene Ching
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  5. #35
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    That's either an old article, or the author is bad at math. The song is not only 35+ years old, but more like 44 years old.

  6. #36
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    Ha. Good catch Jimbo

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    That's either an old article, or the author is bad at math. The song is not only 35+ years old, but more like 44 years old.
    It popped up on my newsfeed this morning, but like you say, it must be a recycled piece. I posted it mostly because it had that missing pic with the white dude with the question mark over his face, and because I was just thinking about it after watching The Guardian Brothers. My bad. I'm still sore from my master's seminar last weekend and am not quite thinking clearly this morning.
    Gene Ching
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  7. #37
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    Npc?

    Someone needs to wake up Maeve McDermott and Patrick Ryan. Kung Fu Fighting is more popular now than ever. And I know a dude named Billy Chin. He'd be offended that they think is name is a racial stereotype.

    MUSIC
    12/11/2018, 08:00am
    20 politically incorrect songs that would be wildly controversial today


    In a Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 file photo, Taylor Swift performs at Club Nomadic in Houston, Texas. Is her 2008 song "Picture to Burn" politically incorrect by today's standards? | John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File

    There’s nothing like hearing a song come on the radio or flicker across a Spotify playlist that you haven’t encountered in a while, and realizing, “Was this song always this offensive?”

    The answer: Yes, it probably was. Standards have changed quite a bit in terms of what references the culture at large deems offensive in its hit songs, from casual ****phobia in pop songs from Katy Perry and Taylor Swift to the jaw-dropping lyrical content of some Rolling Stones classics. (Not to mention the whole recent “Baby It’s Cold Outside” uproar.)

    Below, find a list of songs that, if released today, would almost certainly ignite a scandal.

    1. “Kung Fu Fighting “by Carl Douglas, 1974

    Choice lyric: “There was funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung / He said ‘Here comes the big boss, let’s get it on.’ ”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Perhaps the song was just trying to celebrate the ancient art of kung fu. But its lyrics about “funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown” with stereotypically Asian-sounding last names isn’t exactly a nuanced appreciation of the culture.

    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  8. #38
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    Continued from previous post

    Here's the rest of their NPC picks.


    2. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones, 1971

    Choice lyric: “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields / Sold in the market down in New Orleans / Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright / Hear him whip the women just around midnight.”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Even Mick Jagger knows these lyrics aged incredibly poorly; in recent years, he’s changed the words when he performs the song live. Beyond the song’s opening stanzas, the racism, misogyny and outright references to raping slaves make this a low point in the Stones’ discography.

    3. “Under My Thumb” by the Rolling Stones, 1966

    Choice lyric: “Under my thumb, the squirmin’ dog who’s just had her day / Under my thumb, a girl who has just changed her ways.”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Another disgusting entry in the Stones’ songbook, the song about a woman who’s been molded to “talk when she’s spoken to” is an embarrassment for even existing.



    4. “Ur So Gay” by Katy Perry, 2007

    Choice lyric: “I can’t believe I fell in love with someone that wears more makeup and / You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: If Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” was borderline gross for its exploitative take on same-sex experimentation, “Ur So Gay” crosses the line with its deeply immature rattling-off of gay stereotypes, driven home by the use of the word as a slur.

    5. “Picture to Burn” by Taylor Swift, 2008

    Choice lyric: “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine, I’ll tell mine that you’re gay.”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Perry’s frenemy Taylor Swift wasn’t immune to the same kind of sop****ric ****phobia, with Picture To Burn subscribing to the same backward view that the worst thing you could call a teenage boy is “gay.”

    6. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the Band Aid choir, 1984

    Choice lyric: “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time / The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life / Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow / Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Possibly the most culturally insensitive Christmas song of all time, the Band Aid supergroup may have raised money to alleviate an Ethiopian famine with the proceeds from “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” But they did it with a song that declares the entire continent of Africa is bereft of water, trees or joy.

    7. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors, 1980

    Choice lyric: “I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: No, Turning Japanese isn’t literally about turning Japanese. Still, it wouldn’t be acceptable today to hear a group of white guys assuming the identity of Asian people.



    8. “I’m an Indian Outlaw” by Tim McGraw, 1994

    Choice lyric: “You can find me in my wigwam / I’ll be beating on my tom-tom / Pull out the pipe and smoke you some / Hey and pass it around.”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: McGraw is certainly not “an Indian outlaw, half Cherokee and Choctaw” as he claims in the song. And even if he were, that wouldn’t excuse the hilariously lazy Native American tropes he employs.

    9. “Island Girl” by Elton John, 1975

    Choice lyric: “Island girl, what you wanting with the white man’s world / Island girl, black boy want you in his island world”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: The borderline fetishization in John’s chart-topping ode to a New York City prostitute who’s “black as coal but she burn like a fire” is cringeworthy.

    10. “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, 1982

    Choice lyric: “Ebony and ivory / Live together in perfect harmony / Side by side on my piano keyboard / Oh lord, why don’t we?”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: McCartney and Wonder meant well with their hyper-literal interpretation of race relations. But their message of “people are the same, there’s good and bad in everyone, so let’s just get along” would be interpreted as hilariously naïve by the more woke factions of today’s cultural discourse.

    11. “Rape Me” by Nirvana, 1993

    Choice lyric: “Rape me / Rape me, my friend”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: We get it. Kurt Cobain was a deeply tortured soul. He probably, in retrospect, could’ve expressed this one better.

    12. “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart, 1976

    Choice lyric: “Don’t say a word, my virgin child, just let your inhibitions run wild”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: In case the lyrics to this No. 1 hit weren’t cringe-inducing enough, try not feeling icky watching its video. In it, Stewart woos a faceless young woman and leads her up to his bedroom before she says in French, “I’m a little scared. What is my mother going to say?”

    13. “One in a Million” by Guns N’ Roses, 1988

    Choice lyric: “Immigrants and f****ts, they make no sense to me / They come to our country and think they’ll do as they please”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Axl Rose attempts to win our sympathy with his story of a “small-town white boy” feeling lost when he moves to Los Angeles. But using derogatory language for gay and black men certainly doesn’t help his case, nor do his wildly xenophobic lyrics about immigrants. (“They talk so many (expletive) ways / it’s all Greek to me.”)



    14. “Kissin’ Cousins” by Elvis Presley, 1964

    Choice lyric: “Well I’ve got a gal, she’s as cute as she can be / She’s a distant cousin but she’s not too distant with me”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Nothing like a little casual incest to get the crowd up and dancing. This seemingly innocent but actually creepy doo-wop tune is taken from the King’s 1964 movie musical, in which he plays an Air Force pilot whose two beautiful cousins compete for his affections. Different times?

    15. “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” by Aaliyah, 1994

    Choice lyric: “Age ain’t nothing but a number / throwing down ain’t nothing but a thang / This lovin’ I have for you, it’ll never change”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: No disrespect to the late Princess of R&B, whose hypnotic vocals and idiosyncratic style remain timeless. But it’s hard not to feel at least mildly uncomfortable listening to this song in retrospect: At the time she recorded it, a then-14-year-old Aaliyah was dating — and would soon illegally marry — her mentor/producer R. Kelly, who was 27.

    16. “Illegal Alien” by Genesis, 1983

    Choice lyric: “It’s no fun being an illegal alien”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Its message and story are seemingly well-intentioned, detailing a Mexican immigrant’s struggle to cross the border in search of a better life. But the racist video puts the song in a whole different light, with stereotypical imagery of mariachi horns, ponchos, sombreros and oversize mustaches.

    17. “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, 1972

    Choice lyric: “Holly came from Miami, F-L-A / Hitchhiked her way across the USA / Plucked her eyebrows on the way / Shaved her legs and then he was a she”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: In a song filled with racy anecdotes, this reference to Holly Woodlawn, a transgender actress who was bullied as a teenager and ran away from home, is alarmingly tone-deaf.

    18. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, 1985

    Choice lyric: “See the little f****t with the earring and the makeup? / Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair / That little f****t got his own jet airplane / That little f****t, he’s a millionaire”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: A slight at effeminate rock stars, once again using “gay” as an insult. It’s no wonder this ****phobic slur was omitted from the band’s greatest-hits album, “Sultans of Swing.”



    19. “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” by Aerosmith, 1987

    Choice lyric: “She had the body of a Venus / Lord, imagine my surprise / Dude looks like a lady”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Guy walks into a bar and realizes the stripper he’s been ogling is actually a man. Although the rock classic was co-written by openly gay songwriter Desmond Child, its questionable use in the media — by Fox News when reporting on Chelsea Manning, for instance — makes us think that it’s not the homage to the LGBTQ community that he intended.

    20. “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” by The Crystals, 1962

    Choice lyric: “He hit me and it felt like a kiss / he hit me and I knew he loved me”

    Why it wouldn’t fly today: Gerry Goffin and Carole King were inspired to write the doo-wop ballad by the tragic true-life story of singer Little Eva, who told them that her boyfriend’s beatings were motivated by love. But without context, lyrics such as “he hit me and I was glad” are an off-putting endorsement of domestic abuse.

    Maeve McDermott and Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY
    Snowflakes.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  9. #39
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    srsly?

    The Bachelor Recap: Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting
    Colton gets dumped by a bunch of ladies — in Vietnam!
    NANCY FLOYD FEB 12, 2019 10 AM



    Last week, the most historic, dramatic episode in Bachelor history (not really) was to be continued. Why? Because two girls were arguing. The drama! The scandal! The horror of it all! This week, we find out if those two women will continue fighting over a man whose personality is equivalent to a mop wearing a muscle tank. It's The Bachelor, baby, and we're all just trying to survive.

    Back in Thailand, we have reached the point in the season where the Bachelor walks sadly on a beach in a suit. In Colton’s case, this distraught pacing is caused by Onyeka and Nicole, who have been fighting for a week over which one of them is crazy and which one of them is a bully. I can say with confidence, they are both terrible. Chris Harrison shows up to join the aforementioned sadness parade on the beach. He is also wearing a suit. I believe he says some words, but I am so disinterested in these jackholes that I can’t be bothered to listen.

    It is almost time for the rose ceremony that Colton so rudely left to be continued last week. Miss North Carolina Caelynn is really stressed out and can’t figure out who could possibly be going home. Just a shot in the dark here, but I’m going to guess the two women who derailed the entire party by ugly-crying on a Thai beach for four hours.

    Colton has returned to the Love Hut to hand out roses and speak like a robot. “Night. Hard. Sad. Emotional. Follow. Heart. Bleep, bloop.” Roses go to Miss North Carolina Caelynn, Tayshia, Kirpa (still with that bandaged chin; found out that injury was sustained while taking a selfie), Demi, Hannah G., Katie and Sydney. Wow, real shocker there — the two girls who screamed at each other for a week are going home. See ya, Nicole and Onyeka. I hope your seats are beside each other on your 24-hour flight back to America.

    Good Morning, Vietnam

    Colton is in Vietnam and yet again he’s been abandoned by the entire production team so he’s filming himself on the beach. Meanwhile, ABC splurged for a camera to film the ladies galloping across a resort common space and gaping at the hotel room as though they’ve never seen a throw pillow in their lives. Let’s go stand on a balcony and stare off into the distance for a bit, shall we?

    One-on-One Date

    First Impression Rose Hannah G. gets a date card that says, “We really knead this date.” No one comments on the pun, and I’m alarmed they all think that is how you spell “need.” I assume they’re going to be baking bread or something, but nope — they’re about to get rubbed down in a Vietnamese spa. After pausing mid-way through their facials for a quick little makeout sesh, Colton and Hannah get into swimsuits and get wrapped in bamboo leaves. Things start getting PG-13 in the massage bed and in a mud bath and in the shower and it seems obvious that Colton and Hannah are connecting on a deep, mature, emotional level. This relationship’s got legs, and now those legs are being seductively caressed in a sauna.



    At dinner, they’re required to make sentences, and so they use that time to talk about which makeout location they enjoyed the most (the shower). Hannah G. tells Colton that opening up is “not her jam.” Colton gets it because knowing and speaking words is also not his thing. He gives her a rose and delivers a speech that sounds like it was originally composed in a 12-year-old’s diary. They go subject some poor Vietnamese musicians to their sloppy kisses. I’m sorry, Vietnam.

    Group Date

    Cassie, Finally-Been-Kissed Heather, Tayshia, Miss North Carolina Caelynn, Katie, Miss Alabama Hannah B., Sydney and Demi are chosen for the next date. No one is remotely happy about being on another group date, but they’re rocking that athleisure wear like it’s their last chance to potentially secure a Lululemon partnership on Instagram. This date starts out with the ladies having to endure watching Colton do some very cheesy pretend Kung-Fu fighting. Even with the quick cuts and sound effects that are the result of Hollywood magic, this is terrible. I can’t even imagine how much worse it was in person.


    via GIPHY

    The girls start learning some moves, and not surprisingly, Miss Alabama Hannah B. is very good at Kung-Fu fighting. A little too good. Like, red flag good. The girls have to pair up to spar, and it’s mostly a lot of high-pitched giggling, twirling around and slapping in the general direction of the opponent. Demi and Katie are the final pair, and Demi takes out all of her group date aggression on Katie — or attempts to, anyway. In reality, she ends up getting her ass whooped by Katie, who “accidentally” punches her in the face twice. Colton is sad to see Demi get beaten up. I feel indifferent about it because this show has made me dead inside.

    At the cocktail party, Tayshia opens up about her fears of opening up. Colton uses the required number of words to put her at ease before moving in for a kiss. Katie is worried that Colton will misunderstand her because she doesn’t express emotions. Colton, fortunately, is comprised of metal, bolts and binary code, so he doesn’t even know what emotions are. Colton reassures Miss Alabama Hannah, Miss North Carolina Caelynn and Cassie with his tongue, and all the while, Sydney is ticking closer to a meltdown. She finally sits down with Colton and asks why he hasn’t put her on a one-on-one date. She asks if he can see a future with her and he tells her he’ll “try,” so that seems promising.

    Meanwhile, Demi decides to use her alone time with Colton to call Prison Mom on speakerphone. It’s very romantic talking about shivs and bail money, so they make out afterward. Sydney is still freaking out, so she takes Colton aside yet again and tells him she is going home because she needs more from him — presumably a coherent conversation and a wardrobe that consists of more than a couple of boy-sized Henleys. For anyone keeping track, this is the second time Colton has been dumped in a week. As she leaves, she tells Colton to find the good women in the group and NOT TO BE DISTRACTED BY SHINY THINGS. Sydney is my new queen! Colton gives the rose to Tayshia, the least shiny lady in the group. (That is a compliment; those other ladies look like they greased up their cleavage before this date.)

    One-on-One Date

    Kirpa, whose chin has healed since her traumatic selfie incident of 2018, runs across the beach and jump into Colton’s arms, and I give that leg wrap hug a 5.4. Poor form and she didn’t stick the landing. A little more practice, Kirpa, and you’ll get there.

    They sit in a hut and talk about feelings and then hitch a ride on a rusty old fishing boat to go stab some unsuspecting sea urchins with a giant spear. They aren’t straddling each other within 10 minutes, so I’m worried this relationship has no future. At dinner, Kirpa tells Colton she dated a virgin for eight years so she’s used to this level of boredom in a relationship. Colton gives Kirpa a rose, mostly because he is running out of women.



    After Kirpa gets home, Demi puts on her trashiest jorts and moseys on over to Colton’s hotel room to make “a big move.” She says he won’t be a virgin when the night is over, but I think she is underestimating the strength of that chastity belt. Demi pours out her heart and tells him she’s falling in love with him, which honestly seems like a ruse to get to a quick make out sesh, and Colton responds by telling her that he doesn’t think he can see them being together in the end. She gives him a vague warning about playing it safe and tells him he’s not going to be happy in the end, and he says, “I appreciate that.” He is such a dum-dum.

    Rose Ceremony

    Chris Harrison shows up to check on the ladies and tell the girls that there’s not going to be a cocktail party. The ladies haven’t been in this much of a tizzy since they thought the hotel maid accidentally trashed their cleavage grease. Roses go to Miss Alabama Hannah B., Miss North Carolina Caelynn, Cassie and … dramatic pause … Been-Kissed-Once Heather. That means Katie is going home. Who? Exactly.

    Katie tells him to be careful about the girls. That’s the third warning of the night that Colton has received. I assume he will be too stupid to realize this, but he actually picks up on it and he’s freaking out. He thought Sydney was talking about Demi. But then he got rid of Demi and she warned him about someone. And now Katie left and she warned him about someone else. This is like an Agatha Christie novel! And then there were six (potential fame *****s). Colton’s baby little brain can’t handle it, so he asks the girls to spill the tea on each other … in the next episode. And based on the preview, it’s going to be a doozy, which, in reality, means absolutely nothing will happen EXCEPT we’ll finally see Colton angrily scale that fence. It was all worth it, guys.

    By the Numbers
    Viewing Party Guests: 5 (4 women, 1 brave man)
    Drinks Consumed: 17
    Girls That Dumped Colton in One Week: 2
    Girls That Warned Colton That He is a Moron Who Will End Up Alone: 3
    So much wrong in this article. I can't even...
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  10. #40
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    Fascinating NPR piece

    How The 'Kung Fu Fighting' Melody Came To Represent Asia
    Code Switch
    August 28, 20143:42 AM ET
    Heard on Morning Edition
    KAT CHOW

    5-Minute Listen
    Download
    Transcript
    Since this is a story about a musical phrase, it's one that's best heard. Give it a listen.

    There's a tune that you've probably heard throughout your life. It's nine notes long, and it's almost always used to signal that something vaguely Asian is happening or is about to happen.

    You know what I'm talking about. The tune's most prominent role is probably in that 1974 song "Kung Fu Fighting." It comes in right as Carl Douglas is singing that anthemic "Oh-hoh-hoh-hoah."

    (Just for funsies, here are some of the song's lyrics: "There was funky China men from funky Chinatown / They were chopping them up / They were chopping them down / It's an ancient Chinese art / And everybody knew their part.")


    YouTube

    It was in The Vapors' "Turning Japanese." It was in every cat lover's childhood favorite, The Aristocats. (Yes, before you even ask, it was in the outlandishly racist Siamese cat scene.) It even made an appearance in Super Mario Land.

    The tune is ubiquitous. And like many things that are just in the air, few ever ask where it came from. But we did.

    The Quest

    We're not the first to ask the question. Back in February 2005, on the Straight Dope message board, a person with a username "Doctorduck" asked:

    "Where does that stereotypical 'oriental' song come from? You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an 'oriental' feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's 'China Girl.' "

    Article continues after sponsor message


    Carl Douglas strikes a pose as he promotes his 1974 song, "Kung Fu Fighting."
    Michael Putland/Getty Images

    It was a question that confounded many. Trying to pin down this nameless tune and its place in history turned out to be difficult.

    Across dozens of comments, people agreed 1) that the canonical example of the melody was in "Kung Fu Fighting," 2) the melody also appeared in many other places, and 3) it probably pre-dated Douglas' song. But for weeks, no one could name an incontrovertible pre-1974 example of the tune.

    They even called in the experts. One user reached out to Charles Hiroshi Garrett, a professor at the University of Michigan. In 2004, Garrett had written an academic paper referring to the riff, which a user in the Straight Dope forum quoted:

    "[The opening phrase from the song 'Chinatown, My Chinatown'] resembles an extremely well known trope of musical orientalism—one of the most efficient that the West has developed to signal "Asia" ... Such orientalist shorthand remains recognizable to twenty-first-century listeners, since these tropes continue to inhabit today's popular music. Thus, as clearly as the song's title captures its subject, the opening moments of 'Chinatown, My Chinatown' inform listeners that the song aims to fashion Asian difference."

    Garrett responded:


    A user in the thread pointed the question to Charles Hiroshi Garrett, a professor whose work others in the forum had cited.
    Straight Dope

    But then, the trail turned cold. Radio silence for a year. Then, suddenly, in June 2006, a user named "mani" announced that he'd built a whole website devoted to the question:

    "I got fascinated with this question, and for the past month I've done some research, mostly utilising various online archives of old sheet music and recordings whose copyright claims have expired. My findings soon became far to voluminous to fit in a single post, so I created a website dedicated to the 'Asian riff': chinoiserie.atspace.com."

    The user was Martin Nilsson, a Web designer in Sweden. He'd been studying piano at a conservatory and had a lot of free time to devote to this "hobby research," as he told me over the phone. (It's "hobby research" that lots of different folks have cited, including music professors I chatted with, and bloggers at You Offend Me You Offend My Family.)

    Nilsson found that the melody's roots went back way further than "Kung Fu Fighting" — at least as far as the 19th century.

    Defining The Cliche

    One of the things Nilsson was trying to discover was whether the melody was ever a reference to a real Asian tune — or if it was purely a Western invention.

    "It doesn't come from Chinese folk music, really," Nilsson says. "It's just a caricature of how [Westerners] think Chinese music would sound."


    This is how Martin Nilsson defines his "Far East Proto Cliche" — the earlier form of the nine-note riff.
    Martin Nilsson

    While digging through American sheet music archives, Nilsson reached a point where the line between references to the riff and very similar ones got blurry. So he dubbed the similar riffs the "Far East Proto Cliche," based on specific musical characteristics. The definition: "Any melody with this particular rhythmical pattern and whose first four tones are identical" that usually uses a pentatonic scale, Nilsson wrote on his website. (Some melodies that fit this pattern make no reference to Asia whatsoever — you might recognize it in Peter, Bjorn and John's song "Young Folks.")

    This nine-note tune and its cousins rely heavily on the pentatonic scale, which music from many East Asian and West African countries used.

    "We get the sense of another culture when we hear the scale," says Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, an ethnomusicologist at Arizona State University. "It's worth thinking about the fact that the scale isn't necessarily something we would've been listening to in the United States in a significant way before the end of the 19th century, early 20th."

    The pentatonic scale gained global popularity in 1889, during the Paris World's Fair. The French exhibition — along with other world exhibitions that were popular in that time — was where folks exchanged ideas and learned about other cultures. It was home to a range of exhibits, like the human zoo (also known as the Negro Village) and a Javanese gamelan showcase. The latter inspired composers like Claude Debussy, whose work often used the pentatonic scale.

    But the "Far East Proto Cliche," Nilsson found, went back even further than that World's Fair.

    The Backdrop Of The Riff

    One of the first instances of the cliche Nilsson found was in a show in 1847 called The Grand Chinese Spectacle of Aladdin, or The Wonderful Lamp.

    And to understand the evolution of this riff, we need to look at the backdrop against which this tune emerged.

    In the 1800s, men from China were coming to the U.S. to work in gold mines and on railroads. By 1880, there were 300,000 Chinese in the States — and there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. In 1882, the U.S. banned Chinese immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act. It took until 1968 for such restrictions to be lifted.

    Think about it: Most people back then had limited interactions with people from China and other Asian countries. So playwrights and writers had to come up with a shorthand way of saying, "This is Chinese; this is Asian."
    continued next post (only one YouTube vid per post)
    Gene Ching
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    continued from previous post

    This building of a viewpoint — a viewpoint that in many ways is still with us, that people of Asian descent are intrinsically foreign — is echoed time and time again in various cartoons from the early 1900s that feature the riff:



    YouTube
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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    continued from previous post


    YouTube

    Someone, somewhere decided that this short musical phrase — and others like it — could represent an entire region or identity. And it stuck.
    "Far East Proto Cliche" - now this has a name.
    Gene Ching
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    What if?

    E. Paul Zehr Ph.D.
    Black Belt Brain

    What If Everybody Really Was Kung Fu Fighting?
    Part 1: A bit about your body.
    Posted Oct 23, 2020


    In 1974, the disco song “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting” shot to the top of the pop music charts in Canada, the U.S., Britain, and Australia. This catchy certified “gold” tune by Carl Douglas rhapsodizes about the amazing abilities of Kung Fu fighters “fast as lightning,” although perhaps a “bit frightening” but “fought with expert timing.”



    Obviously, not everybody is Kung Fu fighting at the moment. But what if they were? Or more to the point, committed to training in any martial art? That is, dedicated to attaining extreme skill through dedicated effort, which is what “kung fu” actually means.

    Martial arts, “the arts of war,” or as written in Chinese (wushu) and Japanese (budo) characters, the practices for stopping fighting, are widely recognized for their quick motions, punches, kicks, locks, throws that create an overall image of superhuman skill and ability. While the practices are often glorified in popular media for the powerful movements, prowess, and skill, there are immense tangible health benefits that come from training.

    There is a growing body of scientific literature showing that martial arts training using coordinated, whole-body movements improves balance, strength, and physiological function. The use of martial arts exercises is a promising treatment technique for individuals with chronic conditions and can also be used as a “pre-habilitation” tool. Additionally, martial arts provide a holistic approach to exercise where the brain, body, and mind reap the advantages if done consistently.

    Since the “Kung Fu Craze” of the 1970s that spawned “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting,” martial arts continued to grow in popularity and recently, especially amongst older adults hoping to increase postural and balance control. Aging is often associated with a decline in neuromuscular function as well as a reduced capacity of the body. Falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths worldwide and the largest comorbidity in older adults. Of course, the expectation of decreased function in aging is often brought about by decreased activity itself. Regulation of balance, functional learning for activities of daily living, and strength training improve postural control and mitigate the risk of falls.

    This is where Kung Fu (more properly wushu) kicks in. While it's impossible to definitively track the origins of any ancient martial art, two related but different streams of martial arts, Shaolin and Wudang fist (quan, chuan), originated from two centers in China. Shaolin refers to traditions associated with Buddhist temples that hosted more “external” or “hard” style martial arts. It is considered “external” because of the predominant strong, quick, and forceful movements and a common emphasis on using physical strength. External martial arts focus on strengthening the muscles, skin, and bone, building speed and strength. A significant “hard” Shaolin-related martial art is White Crane, whose children include Long Fist and Preying Mantis in China and which significantly influenced the development of Okinawan and then Japanese karate, and thus eventually Tae Kwon Do in Korea.

    Wudang martial arts originated from Taoist practices in the Wudang mountains and have more of an emphasis on “internal” or “soft” style with a focus on meditative traditions which are in some ways subtly more complex. Wudang martial arts are centered around developing from the core to the outside. Internal martial arts prioritize skills such as focus, timing, awareness, precision, and the use of energy total body power. A hallmark of training in traditions like Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua Zhang, and Hsing I Quan is the combination of slow postural movement with rapid techniques. Many arts share probable origins that combine both, such as the system Bruce Lee originally trained in Wing Chun.

    (Trivia interlude: the name for hip hop Wu-Tang Clan is an homage to martial arts. Their debut album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" refers to Bruce Lee's classic "Enter the Dragon" and the cult hit "36 Chambers of Shaolin.")

    So what happens to your function if you do some Kung Fu fighting? Tai Chi Chuan is one of the most extensively studied martial arts and the slow movements place an emphasis on cognitive processing, leading to improvements in memory and function. Those trained in karate show improved one-leg standing balance compared with those in other activities (swimmers) where active balance and postural control are not key. Forearm bone density, handgrip strength, and balance control were shown to be greater in Wing Chun practitioners in comparison to untrained folks. On average, training in martial arts movements lowers the risk of falls while improving quality of life and functional capacity.

    Karate and other martial arts have been built upon extensive repertoires of agile gestures, movements, and patterns that are interwoven in the practices, which lead to increased strength and reaction times. For older adults, improvements in strength and the ability to perform everyday household tasks such as opening jars can create substantial differences in lifestyle. Strength has been tested in several interventions with martial arts due to the fast and focused movements that exist within the modalities. Frailty increases with age; therefore, it is imperative to maintain or enhance strength throughout the lifespan. This can also help to offset or respond to injury or neurological damage arising from a stroke.

    Falls are a cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, so strength is important for integrating different areas of the body in functional ways. In research studies, we showed that arm & leg cycling, arm cycling, and weight training improved strength and interlimb connections with training after stroke, likely due to evolutionarily conserved connections related to our quadrupedal ancestry. Possibly the same occurs in martial arts interventions where the underpinnings of the practices rely on neurologically coordinated movements within and between the arms and legs.t

    Overall, martial arts improve balance, postural regulation, strength, reaction time, and body composition leading to improved quality of life for practitioners. In terms of physiology, many martial arts are excellent for exercise with multifaceted benefits in all parts of the body due to the focus on integrated whole-body movements. A focal point on balance is important for aging populations and martial arts such as karate are promising therapies. More understanding of the practices from a quantified scientific lens continues, and we hope that the use of traditional martial arts training can underpin preventative “prehabilitation” strategies across the lifespan.

    To answer Carl Douglas then, if “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting,” everybody might be better off both now and beyond. Which brings us to "Bruce Lee and the Brain" and "From the Shaolin Monastery to Your Mind" in our next posts. Please stay tuned!

    Note: This post was a collaboration between me and Hajer Mustafa, a graduate trainee in the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Victoria.
    Suddenly, I really want to hear someone remake this song...someone like Taylor Swift or Beyonce.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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