Something Seriously Wrong in Wight: Singer Arrested For Singing “Kung Fu Fighting”

We have previously followed the trend against free speech in the West ranging from anti-blasphemy laws (including a resolution supported by President Obama) to hate speech prosecutions for criticizing everything from religion to homosexuality to overweight people. England has been a focus of many of these stories. Now, on the Isle of Wight, musician Simon Ledger, 34, has been arrested after singing “Kung Fu Fighting” and a passing person of Chinese descent cried foul.

Ledger and his band were performing at the Driftwood Beach Bar on the Isle of Wight when an Asian man walked by with his mother. The man proceeded to scream a profanity at the band and make an obscene hand gesture. Ledger thought nothing of it until he was contacted that night — ironically, at a Chinese restaurant, to ask him to come into the police station. When he arrived, he was promptly put under arrest.

What is astonishing is that, rather than fire or discipline the officers for making such a ridiculous arrest, the Hampshire Constabulary has said that its investigation is continuing. I assume the investigation is looking into whether Ledger has ever played Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

I am unsure why our English cousins are allowing this trend to continue in criminalizing forms of speech. England has shown how these laws are being used to achieve what centuries of direct acts of censorship failed to achieve: the silencing of individuals with unpopular views and the establishment of majoritarian speech standards.

Here are the lyrics:

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

They were funky China men from funky Chinatown
They were chopping them up and they were chopping them down
It’s an ancient Chineese art and everybody knew their part
From a feint into a slip, and kicking from the hip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they fought with expert timing

There was funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung
He said here comes the big boss, lets get it on
We took a bow and made a stand, started swinging with the hand
The sudden motion made me skip now we’re into a brand knew trip

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightning
But they did it with expert timing

(repeat)..make sure you have expert timing
Kung-fu fighting, had to be fast as lightning

Under this standard, other songs would have to be added to coverage under the criminal code. If the standard is that we can only play songs that will not be viewed as offensive by anyone, we will be left with Muskrat Love (the worst song in history) and Gregorian chants.

The greatest tragedy is that this arrest has finally forced me to do something I have long hoped to avoid: play Kung Fu fighting, one of the worst songs in history. However, our commitment to free speech leaves us no alternative. Warning: the following song is really really bad:

Source: MSNBC

Jonathan Turley

48 thoughts on “Something Seriously Wrong in Wight: Singer Arrested For Singing “Kung Fu Fighting”

  1. I just read this story myself and was about to leave it as a suggestion, but you kung-fu chopped me to the idea, Prof.

    Oops. Got to go. The Bobbies are at the door.

  2. Kung Fu Fighting?? Prof. Turley, that was a difficult task if you had to listen to the whole thing! This is an absurd investigation into craziness. While I don’t like the song or the lyrics, I don’t consider it a criminal offense to sing it.
    Buddha,
    watch out for the Bobbies’ night sticks!

  3. Just to be clear, I can’t see how there is any real merit to the arrest or “investigation” whatever that means.

    But… I can see how someone who IS NOT familiar with the song or it’s cultural context but IS familiar with anti-Asian racism (all too common in the UK) would experience the emotional state of “being offended.” My guess is that it isn’t so much the lyrics as the tinny faux-Asian musical notes that repeat throughout the song. To me, they are reminiscent of the sounds kids make on the playground when pulling the corners of their eyes back to mock/imitate someone of Asian ethnicity.

    Assuming that the description is correct, and the band was already playing the song when the complaining individual walked by, then this whole thing is unambiguously silly. On the other hand, if an Asian-looking person walked up, the band saw him/her and then decided to launch into the song, that could be a very different situation.

  4. Even if it was sung as a deliberate racist provocation, I still don’t see how its valid to arrest the singer. I wish the UK took after us a little on free speech.

  5. My vote is the song should be banished… I had listened to this one, one way too many times…. It made no sense then and it makes no sense now…Why, is the only question would someone really go to the length to learn the lyrics and then utter them in public…. That in of itself should be a distinct separate offense again humanity itself…..

    But then again….I appreciate Jim Morrison’s version of Gloria….the best…..

    This version is not suitable for all audiences….. Please if suggestive and direct language is offensive to you please do not listen to it…..

  6. That does it. Even though I recently turned 64, I absolutely refuse to ever let a cottage on the Isle of Wight, even if it’s not too dear.

  7. rafflaw,

    That is why I put a disclaimer…. Kind of a cool song to sit around and listen to in college….

  8. I have several relatives and friends who are European. I’m lumping them all together rather than separating by country because they have all remarked on the serious racism problems that have developed over the last 30 years. (Mostly starting in the 80’s and thus well entrenched.)

    Basically it stems from the old colonial days and all the automatic citizenship that was/is granted to those born in said colonial holdings. They immigrated in huge numbers and the citizens of the colonial power states are angry as hell about it for reasons that everyone can appreciate … crowding, overtaxing of facilities, jobs, lack of education or too much education, etc. Riots are not uncommon on both sides and the violence is remarkable.

    For instance one has the right of abode in England if :
    1. you have been a citizen of a Commonwealth country up to 1 January 1983 and, immediately before that date:
    2. you were a Commonwealth citizen with a parent who, at the time of your birth or legal adoption, was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and had their citizenship by being born in the United Kingdom, or
    3. you were a Commonwealth citizen and are, or were, the wife of a man with the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

    Then there is France:
    Former colonies, and particularly Algeria, demanded for their citizens a privileged right to immigrate in France : this is the reason for the presence in French cities of a large population of immigrants from Algeria and Western Africa who often face social and cultural problems, racism and unemployment. (The Constitution of 1958 recognized that all people born in Algeria were French citizens {Article 75}) France tightened up its citizenship laws in 1992 but by then it was too late.

    And all are dealing with illegal immigrants.

    Governments are trying to get a handle on it all and thus we see the overreaching that is illustrated in this article.

    At least that’s what is being reported to me.

  9. I would arrest anyone singing “Kung-Fu Fighting”, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”, anything by The Captain and Tennille, or anything else written in the 1970’s. So There! (Except The Beatles or The Rolling Stones) (or Jimmy Reed or Muddy Waters)(or Fats Domino or Bo Diddley)

  10. The video looks like it came from Don Cornelius’s “Soul Train”. Like it. The Doors remind me of dorm life. The girl across the hall played them non stop.

  11. Lest we forget Prof. Turley’s love for Barry Manilow’s elevator music.

    “I can barely stand hearing I Write the Songs once a year in an elevator.”

  12. Amateurs. Amateurs! Here is the worst of them all, but the video is fun. This is a flash mob at the University of Mississippi Student Union. Ole Miss kids know how to party, even to bad music.

  13. Former Fed,
    Thanks (I think) for sharing the Muskrat Love videos with us. I have to go into counseling now after watching the Captain and Tennille one too many times!! :)

  14. OS,
    I think those students were just confused and thought they were in their dance class! I just can’t imagine joining in a “flash mob” when I was in college. Unless of course there was some Mad Dog 20/20 involved!

  15. raff, you have to remember this is Ole Miss. They are consistently in the Playboy top ten party schools. That is not an accident. And, you cannot walk down Sorority Row without running into a past, present or future Miss America.

  16. rafflaw,

    You will have to admit, won’t you, that Ms. Toni Tennille is a perfectly beautiful woman.

  17. Swarthmore Mom,
    How many Soul Train episodes have you seen? I grew up watching Soul Train and catch a rerun every now and again on Centric TV. Believe me when I tell you Don Cornelius’s Soul Train looks nothing like that. That looks more like the popular show Solid Gold.

    As for the song, I grew up dancing to this song. It was a party favorite. Was it intended to be a racist insult. I never thought about that. Even looking at the lyrics now, it seems to be paying homage to the Chinese and the expertness they displayed in their fighting techniques. I know that during the time the song came out Bruce Lee, who was Chinese and Kung Fu movies were all the rage and everybody had Kung Fu fever. Martial art schools were springing up all over the place. Kung Fu was everywhere. Indeed, as the refrain of the song says, “everybody was Kung Fu fighting.”

    Btw, the reference to “cats” in the song is not intended to reinforce the stereotype that the Chinese eat cats. Black men used the term much like we use the term Dude meaning a male person. For example they would talk about “the cats on the corner,” or “the cats around the way,” or “that crazy cat up the street.” Also, the reference to “funky China men from funky Chinatown,” refers to the people and place as hip, cool, or as we would say in the 70’s–groovy.

    Right on brother, right on!

  18. Anon Nurse,

    I majored in Useless Information 101, 202, 303, 401 and 404, 501, 502, etc……..

    Harold Henkins (oops)….is his real name…Conway Twitty is the stage name….

    I think it comes from Conway, Arkansas….and Twitty, Texas….I know I am correct on the first state and city….the second one I would have to call a friend….

  19. Any way that I look at it, tonight it’s raining all over the world…

    AY,

    re: I think it comes from Conway, Arkansas….and Twitty, Texas….I know I am correct on the first state and city….the second one I would have to call a friend….

    I didn’t know… Thanks. The things that I learn here…

  20. Happy to be able to post them, Swarthmore mom. I’m copying the address from the address bar… (Thanks… Some great old songs..)

    Buddha,

    Lovely…

  21. Swarthmore Mom,
    We will have to agree to disagree because I do not see the comparison. Oh well, minor point. Soul Train line, not that was genius. The highlight of the show and the central thing to do at every block party. Thanks for posting.

  22. Man, Stevie is so skinny in that vid.

    I’ll tell you who should be arrested is half of those over the top dorky dancers! Isn’t amazing how dance has changed since then?

  23. anon nurse,

    That whole album is excellent.

    It’s way ahead of its time and probably my favorite ELO album over all their body of work.

  24. I smelled major controversy when a worst song in history was proposed. What, no love for Neil Diamond? “I Am” surely has to be high on the list of worst songs.

  25. Buddha,

    Thanks for the songs, including the hamster vids, which made me smile. Appreciate the ELO album recommendation, as well…

  26. What was Simon ledger thinking ?? I think he should be banned from singing in public….what will he sing next ? Travelin’ Man by Rick Nelson

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