For people of a certain age, Muhammad Ali was your hero. He was the most important athletic figure we’ve ever seen–and probably the most important we’ll ever see. If you weren’t around when he was at his peak, you might not understand that statement, but trust me. There was no one like Ali. No one.
Lots has been written about his boxing career (go here for a great reading and watching list) but I’d like to focus on Ali’s contributions to music.
1. Ali Released an Album
Before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he released an album under his birth name, Cassius Clay. Released by Columbia in 1963, it captured his ability to talk trash poetically. The title track was released as a single and nominated for a Grammy.
Ali also recorded a version of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” He does well.
2. Ali the Hip-Hop Pioneer
Ali was famous for freestyling two- or four-line poems about just about any subject. His timing was impeccable, his trash-talking perfect, the bragging bang-on. Sound like rap and hip-hop, doesn’t it? (Thanks to Halifax for pointing us to this link about Ali’s best quotes.)
3. Ali’s Broadway Role
Back in 1969, Ali appeared in a musical called Buck White. And yes, he sang.
He even appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to perform.
Let’s end with this. Paul Simon was playing a concert when word came of Ali’s death. Here’s how he announced it to the crowd. Guess what song he used. (Via JamBase)