Kung Fu Fighting: Carl Douglas' Chop-Socky Disco Hit

By Emily Morenz
Carl Douglas, studio portrait, doing Kung Fu poses, London, 1974 . (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Carl Douglas' 1974 #1 hit "Kung Fu Fighting" is one of the biggest-selling singles of all time, for a few reasons. It was a novelty song that caught a wave of enthusiasm for martial arts films, including Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon, which had shown in theaters the previous year. 

There's also the disco factor -- in summer 1974, disco had broken through to the pop charts when The Hues Corporation's "Rock The Boat" and George McRae's "Rock Me Gently" topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in consecutive weeks. Disco would go on to saturate the American radio airwaves (eventually prompting fierce backlash) but in late 1974, it was a hot new trend. The song has sold an estimated 11 million copies to date.

Today, it's a strand of the fabric of '70s culture, and it just might be impossible for listeners to resist the urge to break out their finest karate punches and grunts when they hear it. But "Kung Fu Fighting" was expected to be a forgotten dud by both Douglas and his producer Biddu. Instead it topped UK and US charts amplifying kung fu’s popularity into an even greater level.