“I was a senior in high school. I remember thinking Sonny Liston was the meanest, baddest man on the planet. He was an ex-con, controlled by the mob, and one look at him could shrink a man into a boy. Clay was the glib, smack-talking pretty boy. Most fans predicted his early demise. The fight was talked about for weeks after it was over. I was hooked. Boxing became my favorite sport.” –Jackie Kallen, fight manager
It was an epic, wierd-ass time for this country. It just was. February, 1964 and just a few months earlier America had seen it’s golden boy, President Kennedy the King of Camelot, shot down in the street like a dog, in broad daylight, in Dallas Goddamn Texas. The state would feel the impact for decades, as the entire country just could not forgive Texas for letting this happen to the President on their watch. America still had a collective black eye from the tragic loss and desperately needed something to rally around. And boy did we get it– the fight that would change boxing forever. The invincible, stoic champ, Sonny Liston vs. the young, brash showman (AKA the Louisville Lip) Cassius Clay. To add to the pandemonium, The Beatles had landed on our shore at JFK February 7th for their historic, record-breaking performances that would change music forever. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to be alive during such an epic time in history.
“The Beatles were royally pissed. They were brought to the beach first for a photo op with the champ. Liston took one look and said, ‘I won’t pose with those sissies.’ So they’re brought to meet Clay instead. I’m at the gym. Clay’s late. The Beatles are cursing. He finally shows up and says, ‘Come on Beatles. Let’s go make some money.’ They strike a pose in the ring where he taps George and the rest go down like dominoes. Clay says, ‘You boys aren’t as stupid as you look.’ John Lennon says, ‘No, but you are.’ Then they go off to their destiny and Ali goes off to his.” –Robert Lipsyte, who covered the fight for the New York Times
“Thoreau said– most men live lives of quiet desperation. I would like to know how it feels for my desperation to get louder.” ~Bill Withers
1974 — Muhammad Ali and singer/songwriter Bill Withers chat during the Zaire ’74 Music Festival that preceded the epic Ali vs. Foreman’Rumble in the Jungle’ fight on Oct. 30th, 1974. Other performers included– James Brown, B.B. King, the Spinners, the Fania All-Stars, Miriam Makeba and Zairian musical artists, all chronicled in the 2008 film,’Soul Power’. When asked later if it felt like a moving, historic racial event at the time Withers recalled, “No. It was two big guys going to fight each other at four o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t this great intellectual pursuit. And there’s a certain reality to going someplace where there’s a dictator. You notice the disparity in the wealth.” And in regard to the African-American movement that was hapeening to re-discover their roots? “Awwww, come on, man. It wasn’t a great historical moment. Interesting, but that was that. No great spiritual experience. Mostly what everybody found out was–we had been shaped and transformed by American culture and the history we had here, and they had been shaped by whoever colonized their place. They weren’t speaking any African languages. We were speaking English and they were speaking French. How African is that?” — Photograph by © Lynn Goldsmith via
Bill Withers was no natural born musician, or polished product of the recording industry. He was a simple man, a bit manic depressive he’d even tell you himself– and that may be why his plain spoken words, delivered so powerfully, pack the punch they do. The youngest of six kids, Withers was born in a bleak West Virginia town where coal mining was your best prospect. He’d be the first man in his family to escape its grip.
Withers joined the Navy and got the hell outta there. It turned out to be a nine year hitch, and along the way picked up singing in bars wherever he found himself stationed. Later he picked up the guitar and taught himself a crude, but effect, playing style where he’d form simple barre chords and rhythms– this allowed him to passionately pound out songs without having to give much thought to his fingering– he could just slide his hand up and down the neck.
“Bill played just enough guitar to do what he did– But, what he did was really good.” –Craig McMullen, Bill Withers backing guitarist. Withers openly admitted he was a hack on the guitar, but he managed to wrench more power and emotion out of his instrument than other, more accomplished, players. –Photograph by © Fin Costello
Andre the Giant had an enormous appetite for love, life– and apparently, alcohol. Lots of it. The stories of his consumption are legendary and honestly– almost unbelievable. They’re also well-circulated too, so I’m sure I’m not telling you anything that you didn’t already know. Andre, I raise my glass– Here’s to you, my friend. You big lovable French wrestling legend drinker guy, you.
I think I’d be inclined to drink too, if I knew I’d never live anything that even remotely resembled a normal life. What if you’re a guy like Andre and just want to have a nice little family with 2.5 kids and some rabbits, and lead a quiet, simple existence? Yeah, well you’re totally screwed buddy– that’s what. It ain’t gonna happen. The world wants its freak show.
They say that Andre had a lot of emotional and physical pain that he was masking with his drinking. Now that you explain it like that, I totally understand the whole “119 beers in six hours” thingy. Comfortably numb. Seriously, all us guys know exactly why Andre would pull a stunt like that– because he could.
French wrestler Andre Rene Roussimoff, best known as “Andre the Giant” during a Paris fashion exhibition. At 19, Andre reportedly stands 7 feet and 4 inches tall –1966.