Muhammad Ali – A music tribute
I rarely post special tributes on the death of non-music public figures. The last time I did that was for Nelson Mandela in 2013 (still available), and, as an anti-tribute, Margaret Thatcher. Here is a tribute to the boxer Muhammad Ali, who has died at 74.
Ali was special because he was a great boxer, because he was a giant in the art of self-promotion, because he bore his illness with such dignity. But he was more than any of that. He was, like Mandela, a man of consistent principle, and a man of highest ethics (even if nit in his private affairs, as it also was with Mandela).
His politics were militant at a time when black militancy could get you killed; he converted to Islam when many Americans saw such a thing as a hostile act (and little has changed in that respect), he refused to be drafted into the army to participate in a war he considered unjust when such a refusal was regarded as an act of disloyalty to the flag (but when George W Bush ran for the presidency, draft-dodging became acceptable, provided you dressed it up right).
Ali might have had an easy gig in the US Army, as celebrities often did. He could have been a promo man for the military and a clown for the troops, never seeing a Viet Cong up close or enjoying the smell of napalm in the morning. But he didn’t want to legitimize an unjust war against people with whom he had no quarrel: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs?”
He was prepared to pay a considerable price for a principled stand, just as he was on top of the world. And he did pay that price. Notably, the greatest trash-talker in sports never trash-talked those who persecuted him, even as he spoke out against the actions and attitudes that were immoral. And by his willingness to make profound sacrifices in uncompromising fidelity his convictions, he was a model of highest ethics.
The songs here don’t meditate much on this side of Muhammad Ali. Their focus is on Ali the pugilist, though a couple do riff on his background and his persecution. A few songs here are not directly about Ali but make reference to him, and a couple are by Ali himself — one with Sam Cooke, the other as part of a n anti-tooth decay drive (true story). One song doesn’t mention Ali at all. Ben Folds’ song is in the voice of a boxer speaking to the famous American sports broadcaster Howard Cozell — Folds has said that this boxer was Muhammad Ali.
R.I.P. The Greatest!
As always, CD-R length, covers, PW in comments.
1. Cassius Clay – ‘Rumble – Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee (1963)
2. The Alcoves – The Ballad Of Cassius Clay (1964)
3. The Best Ever – The People’s Choice (1975)
4. Alvin Cash – Ali Shuffle (1976)
5. Eddie Curtis – The Louisville Lip (1971)
6. Ali and His Gang – Who Knocked A Crack In The Liberty Bell (1976)
7. Sir Mack Rice – Muhammed Ali (1976)
8. Johnny Wakelin – In Zaire (1976)
9. Faithless – Muhammad Ali (2001)
10. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
11. The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Tuff Enuff (1986)
12. Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Muhammad Ali (Tribute to The Greatest) (2010)
13. Jon Hardy & The Public – Cassius Clay (2015)
14. Skeeter Davis – I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter) (1969)
15. Cassius Clay with Sam Cooke – The Gang’s All Here (1964)
16. De Phazz – Something Special (2010)
17. Dennis Alcapone – Cassius Clay (1973)
18. Mark Foggo – The Day I Met Muhammad Ali (2010)
19. Verne Harrell – Muhammed Ali (1971)
20. Nirvana – Watch Out Cassius Clay (1973)
21. Don Covay – Rumble In The Jungle (1974)
22. Mister Calypso – Muhammad Ali (1971)
23. Johnny Wakelin – Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) (1975)
24. Jorge Ben – Cassius Marcelo Clay (1971)
25. Ben Folds – Boxing (live, 2005)
26. Muhammad Ali – ‘I’m the real champion’ (1974)