Monday, 6 June 2016

Muhammad Ali and The Beatles

When The Beatles met Muhammad Ali, February 1964.
Friday, boxing legend Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay) left this planet, at 74. Ali was a major icon when he was alive, not only because of his victories in the boxing ring, but also for his memorable quotes, a number of them in lyrical verse form, and his political and religious convictions.

Meeting The Beatles in 1964
The Beatles met up with Muhammad Ali at a photo opportunity when he was still Cassius Clay, during their first U.S. visit in February, 1964. Clay was in Miami, in training for the fight that would bring him the world heavyweight championship when he beat Sonny Liston - also known from the Sgt Pepper album cover. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Ringo remembers their intitial meeting.

For consciousness reasons, Ali refused to be drafted during the Vietnam war, and lost his title in 1967. He appealed and the High Court suspended the sentence in 1971.

Muhammad Ali with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1977.
Muhammad Ali had a well known nickname: "The Greatest", which must have been on John Lennon's mind when he penned "I'm The Greatest", which Ringo sang on a record, John and George participating.

Paul's parody
When Paul McCartney's band Wings was touring USA in 1976, at every town or city they visited, he was always asked about a possible Beatles reunion. Tired of this after a while, Paul came up with a Muhammad Ali-type verse:

The Beatles split in '69
And since then they've been doing fine
And if that question does not cease
Ain't no one gonna get no peace
And if you ask it just once more
I think I'm gonna break your jaw!

Beatles reunite for Ali
A comic book, "Superman vs Muhammad Ali" was published by DC Comics in 1978. On the front cover, several famous people are drawn into the crowd watching Superman fight Ali, among them are some familiar faces.

A reunited Beatles in 1978: Linda and Paul, John and Yoko, George and Ringo alone.

Enlargement from the 2010 hardcover edition of the comic book.

Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame
When The Beatles were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, Muhammad Ali was one of the people present, and in his thank you speech, George Harrison mentioned Ali. George had been thanking all the musicians who inspired The Beatles, singling out Little Richard, who also was present, when he was interrupted by Ringo.

Ringo: Don't forget Muhammad Ali!
George: We won't forget Muhammad Ali, he picked us up in Miami Beach one day.

Paul and Ali
In 2002, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali were two of the recipients of the UNA-USA's Global Leadership award in New York, and the two met up again. Paul published this statement when notified of Ali's death: "Dear Muhammad Ali. I loved that man. He was great from the first day we met him in Miami, and on the numerous occasions when I ran into him over the years. 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. Love Paul"

9 comments:

James Percival said...

I became a massive fan of Ali at roughly the same time I became a Beatles fan - the autumn of 1974 - and so his passing has really saddened me (even if it wasn't a great surprise). I followed his career, and his sad demise - closely from that time on. Naturally I knew about Miami in 1964, but it's nice to know that there were subsequent meetings. I suppose we had all better get used to these huge icons dying now that the baby boomers are coming to the end!

Shad Radna said...

According to this BBC story, The Beatles are in the crowd watching Ali fight Superman. Maybe that's John and Yoko near Ali's left knee? I don't know.

Roger Stormo said...

The crowd watching Superman fight Muhammad Ali was localised, so that different people are drawn in for various international editions of the cover. But it looks like The Beatles are in all of them. Take a look at this Portuguese cover and zoom in near Ali's left knee. That's John as Yoko as you suggested, but also George and Ringo below them, and Paul (with a beard) with Linda above them. My Norwegian copy of the comic book has an index on the inside of the front cover where lots of the people in the audience are identified, but The Beatles are not.

Joe Dee said...

Apparently the reason the Beatles and some other celebrities weren't identified was out of fear of being sued on DC's part.

Roger Stormo said...

The Sun has a Lennon-Ali story today.

Roger Stormo said...

When Ali tried to reunite The Beatles

Unknown said...

I wish the Beatles would have put him on the front cover of Sgt. Pepper. It would have been a symbol of solidarity considering what he was dealing with at the time as a conscientious objector to Vietnam. I'd never have thought about it until you reminded me that Sonny Liston is one of the wax dummies.

Unknown said...

I wish the Beatles would have put him on the front cover of Sgt. Pepper. It would have been a symbol of solidarity considering what he was dealing with at the time as a conscientious objector to Vietnam. I'd never have thought about it until you reminded me that Sonny Liston is one of the wax dummies.

James Percival said...

That's a really good point, Unknown, especially if the comments attributed to Liston about the Beatles are true. Let's just say he wasn't a fan of the band, especially Ringo! I am sure that I initially thought that the boxer was Ali - but what a better choice he would have been in every way