A Bronx Tale: The Story Of The Ghetto Brothers

“Benjy Melendez bounds down a staircase at the entrance to the Prospect Avenue elevated subway station in the South Bronx, looks around at the buildings dotting the intersection and sweeps his left arm for emphasis as he declares, ‘This used to be paradise for The Ghetto Brothers!’ These days, the 60-year-old Melendez lives in Harlem, but as the 60s rolled over into the 70s, the South Bronx area he’s revisiting became the setting for a drama that saw a member of Melendez’s gang, The Ghetto Brothers, brutally bludgeoned and then stabbed to death – a loss that kick-started a peace-treaty between Bronx gangs and reinforced Melendez’s conviction to reposition his crew as a force for local good, shunting drug dealers out of the area and organising food and clothing drives. This broad redemption story also happened to play out against a curious musical backdrop of intermingling local Latin rhythms and the British Invasion of 60s rock music. Somewhere out of all this tumult, the Melendez-fronted Ghetto Brothers also managed to tease out an eight-song album that was inspired by an adoration for The Beatles. That record, Power-Fuerza, has been out of print since its 1972 release on Salsa Records. Melendez no longer owns a copy of the album himself; it’s become a cherished item on the collectors’ scene with copies having sold for over $1000, according to Leon Michels, a co-owner in the Brooklyn-based Truth & Soul label that is reissuing it this month. Power-Fuerza’s scarcity is attributed to the album becoming a local hit that failed to travel out of its immediate environment due to what Melendez calls ‘a total lack of a good public relations guy.’ Listening to Power-Fuerza 40 years later, with Melendez fleshing out the social, political and musical context to the record, its joyful verve, harmonious lyrics and funk-propelled grooves make it seem like a precious ray of positivity seeping out from the top floor of a tenement window, sound-tracking one of New York City’s most unruly eras with an enthused lilt. …”
Red Bull Music Academy (Video)
W – Ghetto Brothers
NY Times: Rocking the Streets With a Band and a Gang
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Power-Fuerza 1 / 8

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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