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

By Sarah Norman | December 6, 2023

Kung Fu Fighting

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.

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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.

Bruce Lee Ignited The Kung Fu Craze

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Between the late ‘60s and early ‘80s, Hong Kong and Hollywood blended together as karate-themed films flooded American movie theaters. The term “chopsocky” was coined to describe these films that often included exaggerated special effects, violence, and hilariously inaccurate dubbing. The movies were cheap and easy to make, by Hollywood standards, and many were released quickly over a short period of time. Beloved martial arts master and actor Bruce Lee can be credited for bringing Hong Kong action to the west with his entertainingly impressive karate skills he demonstrated on screen. In May 1973, the top three box office spots were also held by the kung-fu movies Fist of Fury (1972), Deep Thrust (1972), and Five Fingers of Death (1972).  The first of those starred Lee, as did The Way of the Dragon (1972), and Enter the Dragon (1973), and all were among the favorites of Americans and inspired a worldwide interest in martial arts. In 1972, the television series Kung Fu launched about a monk traveling through the wild west with only his karate skills to protect himself.