100 songs that changed history

Time Out explores the music that changed the course of world events

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    ‘Fight the Power’ – Public Enemy (1989)

    Subtlety and nuance are great qualities. Public Enemy's Chuck D had them in spades: he was a man so professor-like, he needed playful sprite Flavor Flav just to remind people to occasionally have fun. Subtlety and nuance don't change the world, however. 'Fight The Power' was incendiary because it was brutally explicit and unequivocal.

    Nobody else was willing to tell it how it was. As Chuck himself said, '"Don't worry be happy" was a number one jam, damn if I say it, you can slap me right here.' Black America as he saw it was still being denied – a fact soon borne out by the LA riots of '91. What makes this our number one, though, is that it transcended its locality and became a call to action around the world: in Ireland, in Serbia, along the fault lines of the crumbling Soviet bloc and beyond.

    Chosen by Matthew Collin, journalist and author of ‘This is Serbia Calling’ and ‘Altered State’

    Matthew says: ‘First heard as the incendiary intro to Spike Lee’s film "Do the Right Thing", "Fight the Power" encapsulated the resurgent Black Power spirit in rap music at the time – but it was far from the USA where the song had political impact.

    During an armed crackdown by Slobodan Milošević’s regime in the Serbian capital of Belgrade in 1991, rebel radio station B92 was banned from broadcasting news. The station responded by playing tracks like “Fight the Power” over and over again, subverting the ban by expressing in music what they weren’t allowed to say in words.’