Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WACKY WEDNESDAY: The Musical World of Muhammad Ali

The Beatles couldn't lay a glove on him
"Ali is still champ." That's what Patti Smith declared in the liner notes of her 1976 album (and my favorite Patti Smith album) Radio Ethiopia.

Indeed, the boxer, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky in 1943 is considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight fighter in boxing. Not only is he known for his accomplishments in the ring, he's known for being a champion of civil rights and one of the best known opponents of the Vietnam War. That opposition cost him his title when he refused induction into the Army 48 years ago this month.

A true man of his times, Ali had an infinity for rock and soul musicians. He posed for pictures with Elvis Presley and The Beatles. He palled around with Sam Cooke.

And, yes, he tried his hand at recording.

According to an article in, back in 1963, even before he beat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship, he recorded an album on Columbia Records (under his birth name) called I Am the Greatest., featuring some spoken-word as well as music. (It's still available on Amazon. with bonus tracks)

After he won the belt in 1964 Columbia released the title song as a single.

And here's the flip side.

This song was produced by Sam Cooke, who also sang on it.

Of course there were tribute songs to Ali. Here's one by a Jamaican toaster named Dennis Alcapone.

And this one by British singer Johnny Wakelin

On the other hand there was this weird satirical look at Ali's resistance to the draft by the  inimitable T. Valentine.

By the mid '70s, Ali wanted to turn his musical talents to serious social issues. Like dental health.

If you can make it much past the opening theme, you're a better man than me. Apparently this Youtube includes the entire first side of this LP. Apparently ALi's "gang" included Frank Sinatra, Ossie Davis and Richie Havens!

But as far as I'm concerned, Ali is still champ.

Even Elvis' karate was no match for Ali

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