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This week, our guest is Benjy Melendez, founder, President, and singer of the Ghetto Brothers. He is joined by his co-author and friend, Amir Said.

The Ghetto Brothers were one of the largest and most powerful street gangs in the Bronx in the late 1960s and early 70s - a time when the borough, and New York City as a whole, had plenty to choose from. At its height, the organization had around 2,000 members city-wide.

But after one of their key figures got killed by rival gangs, Benjy devoted his efforts to peace, and held a now-famous peace treaty meeting at the Hoe Avenue center in the Bronx in 1971 - a gathering that set the stage for the ending of the gang era and the beginnings of hip-hop.

In addition to being a powerful organization, the Ghetto Brothers were also a rock and roll band. They only released one album, 1971’s Power Fuerza, but it became a prized collectors item, notable for its surprisingly sweet lyrics and Beatle-esque melodies, Latin percussion, and unique backstory.

While parts of Benjy’s story have been shared in the new documentary Rubble Kings and even in a graphic novel, the new book by Benjy and Amir Said, Ghetto Brother: How I Found Peace in the South Bronx Street Gang Wars, is the first place Benjy shares his entire life story.

Tracks featured in this episode:

  1. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
  2. The Death of Black Benjie
  3. The Death of Black Benjie
  4. The Death of Black Benjie
  5. Cyrus full speech (The Warriors 1979)
  6. Rubble Kings
  7. 51st State Bronx Gangs 1972 Ending Clip 2
  8. Ghetto Brothers, “Viva Puerto Rico Libre”
  9. Ghetto Brothers, “There Is Something In My Heart”
  10. Ghetto Brothers, “Girl from the Mountain”
  11. The Chipmunks, “Witch Doctor”
  12. The Beatles, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”
  13. Ghetto Brothers, “Viva Puerto Rico Libre”
  14. Ghetto Brothers, “You Say You Are My Friend”
  15. Sly and the Family Stone, “I Want to Take You Higher”
  16. Ghetto Brothers, “Ghetto Brothers Power”
  17. Ghetto Brothers, “Mastica, Chupa y Jala”
  18. Santana, “Oye Como Va”
  19. Santana, “Persuasion - Live”
  20. Jose Feliciano, “Tenderly”
  21. Ghetto Brothers, “Mastica, Chupa y Jala”
  22. Ghetto Brothers, “Got This Happy Feeling”
  23. Ghetto Brothers, “Got This Happy Feeling”

Show notes:

  1. Wikipedia, “Pedro Albizu Campos”
  2. The Ghetto Brothers on Truth & Soul Records
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