This is a true rock’n’roll story from the dawn of the 70s spiced with street gangs, territory fights, illegal trades, drugs and prostitution, rivalry, murders and the fresh spirit of The Beatles.
Three brothers, Benjy, Victor and Robert Melendez were among the founding members of the Ghetto Brothers. While the 1960s was giving way to the rise of gang culture in the Bronx, the Melendez brothers were playing Beatles pop songs on street corners in a tribute band they called “Los Junior Beatles”. Later, they began paying attention to rising urban activist groups such as the Black Panthers and Puerto Rican nationalist group, the Young Lords. “Los Junior Beatles” officially took the name “Ghetto Brothers” and played frequently at community events. The songs they wrote became more socially conscious, as did their gang. Empowered by the revolutionary spirit, the Ghetto Brothers became a positive organization that cleaned up their streets, pushed out the drugs and prostitution, boosted morale and kept the community safe. The Melendez brothers were also Sephardic Jews that practiced their religion in secret while being part of a Hispanic community.
The “Power-Fuerza” album was informally released in the New York area by a local record store and record label that had invited the Ghetto Brothers to put their music on tape, but it was never properly promoted or distributed. While the album never gained any recognition outside of New York, with the locals and Bronx natives in particular, Power Fuerza was a hit. Before the release of the album, one of the members of Ghetto Brothers gang was murdered trying to prevent a fight between two rival gangs. Instead of retaliation, Benjy Melendez, lead guitarist in the band, organised a peace meeting which resulted in a historic truce among the Bronx and Harlem gangs.
Merging perfectly soul, funk, pop and rock, mixing the spirit of The Beatles and the pounding vitality of Santana, Ghetto Brothers proved creativity, talent and passion, they delivered a fabulous album of vivid and vibrant, soulful and powerful music filled with the true message of love.
Their sole record is a crowning achievement in Puerto Rican music history and especially in the New York gang scene. The original unit featured on “Power-Fuerza” stopped performing together in the mid-’70s, yet an energized incarnation of the Ghetto Brothers remains a steady-gigging unit to this day. Still a family affair, the current lineup features Benjy and Robert Melendez (brother Victor passed away in 1995) as well as Benjy’s son Joshua on bass and Robert’s son Hiram on drums.
Truth and Soul Records has brought Power Fuerza back to life in a way that does the movement and what this album stands for so much justice. With an 80+ page booklet, the intricate nature of New York gang life is revealed in very close terms.