Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon pay tribute to Muhammad Ali
June 6, 2016
The legendary boxer died last Friday
Bob Dylan said Muhammad Ali was “truly the greatest” in his written tribute, the latest in a series of musician-penned commemorations to the boxer.
A longtime admirer of the boxer, Dylan wrote on his website: “If the measure of greatness is to gladden the heart of every human being on the face of the earth, then he truly was the greatest. In every way he was the bravest, the kindest and the most excellent of men.”
Boxers have inspired Dylan songs “Who Killed Davey Moore” and “Hurricane“. Following the release of the latter, which was a protest song against boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful conviction for murder, Ali joined Dylan on stage at a New York concert in 1965 and rung Carter in prison during the show.
Dylan also sang about Ali, who was then called Cassius Clay, in a verse of “I Shall Be Free No 10” in 1964 LP Another Side of Bob Dylan. The track was recorded after Ali beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion for the first time.
I said ‘Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come
26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine
Five, four, three, two, one, Cassius Clay you’d better run
99, 100, 101, 102, your ma won’t even recognize you
14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, gonna knock him clean right out of his spleen.
Also paying his respects was Paul McCartney, who first met Ali with The Beatles in February 1964. He wrote on his site: “Besides being the greatest boxer, he was a beautiful, gentle man with a great sense of humour who would often pull a pack of cards out of his pocket, no matter how posh the occasion, and do a card trick for you… The world has lost a truly great man,”
Ali died aged 74 last Friday (3 June) after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Paul Simon was doing a concert at the time of his death, and stopped midway through a rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” to inform the audience.
Ringo Starr on the Time Muhammad Ali Picked Him Up
Drummer recalls Beatles' famous 1964 encounter with "physically and spiritually powerful" champ
By Jordan Runtagh
June 6, 2016
Ringo Starr recalls the Beatles' historic 1964 meeting with Muhammad Ali.
On February 18th, 1964, just nine days after the Beatles made their acclaimed American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, and a week before Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) won his first World Heavyweight Championship title, these two preeminent cultural forces of the Sixties converged at Miami Beach's 5th Street Gym. What might have devolved into a corny photo-op instead led to some of the most enduring images of the 20th century, capturing the moment these young, charismatic and supremely talented young men achieved total dominance in their respective fields.
On Sunday, as the world mourned the death of Ali at age 74, Ringo Starr sat down with Rolling Stone to share his memories of the day in 1964 when he stepped into the ring with the soon-to-be champ. He learned of the boxing legend's passing after performing Friday at Syracuse's Lakeview Amphitheater, the first stop on his 2016 summer tour. "We didn't know while we were on," says Starr. "When we came off, they broke into whatever was on TV. That's when I knew."
It's been said that Cassius Clay had no idea who the Beatles were when they showed up at his gym, where he was training to fight then-current title-holder Sonny Liston. Robert Lipsyte, a future Ali biographer who was covering the meeting for The New York Times, claims that Clay uttered a bemused "Who were those little sissies?" as soon as they were out of earshot. According to Starr, the feelings were mutual – minus the sissy part. "In all honesty, we didn't know one boxer from another," he recalls. "That's how it worked out – somebody set it up."
Even casual observers like the Beatles believed Liston to be the likely victor. Vegas odds-makers projected him winning by a sizable 8-1 margin, and the band initially grumbled that they were getting time with, in John Lennon's estimation, "that loudmouth who's going to lose." But they were quickly won over by Clay's magnetic charm and a comedian's instinct that rivaled their own. Soon they were all clowning around the boxing ring for photographers, with the Beatles playing the good-natured victims of Clay's lethal fists.
Paul McCartney, who first met Muhammad Ali alongside the Beatles in February 1964, penned a tribute to the legendary boxer who died Friday at the age of 74.
Mark and Colleen Hayward/Hulton Archive
The photos all look so perfectly choreographed, like a lost scene out of A Hard Day's Night, though Starr insists that they weren't staged in advance. "We did them on the day," he says of the poses. "His cross to bear was that everybody you see him in a photo with – whether it's Mandela, on a talk show, anybody – it's always the punch photo." He chuckles, adding capitals with his voice. "It's always 'The Punch Photo'! We were 'The Punch Photo'!" Photographer Harry Benson took the definitive image, which shows Clay sending the mop tops colliding into one another with cartoonish ferocity.
"And then he's carrying me. I don't know why, he just picked me up!" Starr says. "It wasn't like, 'OK, pick him up now!' He just suddenly did." Surely there must have been some sort of warning? "No, he just grabbed me and lifted me up! What was I gonna say? 'Hey, come outside. …'" The drummer raises his fists, but his mock-tough expression quickly breaks into a grin. "We only got out of the ring because he put me down."
The day Muhammad Ali met the moptops — from left to right, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ali, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.
When all was said and done that day, the Fab Four knew who they would put their money on. "We had it on him! He's the Kid!"
Starr would briefly cross paths with Ali over the years, and in 1973 he recorded the Lennon-penned "I'm the Greatest," which borrowed its title from Ali's infamous battle cry. But their most memorable connection will always be their first meeting in 1964, when both were new to fame and on the cusp of worldwide stardom.
"He was powerful. He was just physically and spiritually powerful," remembers Starr. "He was just great. He's a huge loss."
Paul on Muhammad Ali
God bless Muhammad Ali peace and love to all his family. 😎✌️🌟💖— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) 4 de junio de 2016
#RIPMuhammadAli Condolences to Muhammad Ali's family, friends and fans from the Harrison estate. pic.twitter.com/9WXqxZnJ2h— George Harrison (@GeorgeHarrison) 4 de junio de 2016