Ali: “The People’s Choice”

Muhammad Ali enjoyed such worldwide popularity, I’m surprised The Champ didn’t release more recordings over the course of his career, aside from two albums, a handful of singles, and, of course, the Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay LPs:

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Ali would launch his national campaign for dental health with a boxing match against the “pride of Cavityville” – Mr. Tooth Decay – on the grounds of the Washington Monument, as reported in the November 4, 1979 edition of the Washington Post:

“Yesterday’s match was sponsored free of charge, by A&P supermarkets, which will be distributing an album on tooth decay called May the Brush Be With You.  It features the voices of Ali, Frank Sinatra, Billie Jean King, Lily Tomlin and President Carter.  Most of the proceeds will go to charity — and the rest to Ali.”

Ali LP-b1Ali’s second full-length release (one of Billboard’s “recommended” soul albums in its  October 30, 1976 edition) would coincide with the nation’s bicentennial, hence the subtitle of the title track, “Ali’s Bicentennial Freedom Song.”

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Zero to 180 is hoping someone can identify Muhammad Ali’s partner (i.e., “The Best Ever”) on this 1975 Polydor single A-side “The People’s Choice” that might possibly have been – oddly enough – for the European market only:

Ali 45-c1Click on triangle below to hear “The People’s Choice”

“The People’s Choice”     The Best Ever and Muhammad Ali     1975

Germany’s Trikont label would gather many rare and hard-to-find Ali-related songs in 2003 in a CD entitled Hits and Misses:  Muhammad Ali and the Ultimate Sound of Fistfighting:

  1. Muhammad Ali”     Tom Russell     [2003]
  2. 8ième Round”     Trio Madjesi     [1976?]
  3. Cassius Marcellus Clay”     Jorge Ben     [1971]
  4. The Ballad Of Cassius Clay”     The Alcoves     [1964]
  5. Muhammad Ali”     Sir Mack Rice     [1976]
  6. Foreman Ali Welcome To Kinshasa”     G.O. Malebo Orch.    [1974]
  7. The People’s Choice”     The Best Ever & Muhammad Ali     [1975]
  8. “You’re The Greatest”     Bette McLaurin     [1964]
  9. Muhammad Ali”     Dennis Alcapone     [1975]
  10. He Is He”     Page Scherer     [?]
  11. The Louisville Lip”     Eddie Curtis     [1971]
  12. Rumble In The Jungle”     Don Covay     [1974]
  13. Muhammad Ali”     Liberated Brother     [1975]
  14. Cassius Clay”     Dennis Alcapone     [1973]
  15. Foreman vs Frazier”     Big Youth     [1973]
  16. Muhammad Ali”     Mr. Calypson     [1971]
  17. Muhammad Ali”     Verne Harrell     [1971]
  18. Ali Shuffle”    J.W. Grasshopper & the Butterfly     [1974]
  19. Try It Again”     Joe Frazier     [1974]
  20. I’m The Greatest”     Muhammad Ali     [1976]
  21. Bommaye”     Pupi Y Su Charanga     [1975]

Ali 45-a1Ali 45-aaa1Ali 45-aa1Ali 45-b1Ali 45-e1Ali 45-d1Ali 45-f1Ali 45-h1Ali & the Beatles-1

Behind the Mic:  A Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali Discography

Extra Rounds with The Champ!

“Doin’ the Ali Shuffle”     Alvin Cash     1967

“linger on (Cassius clay)”     Prince buster     1965

“Ali Bom-Ba-Ye”     Michael Masser & Mandrill     1977

Honorable Mention

Skeeter Davis     “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter”     1969

“I’m a lover not a fighter, I kinda like it that way.
If you want a a fighting partner, go live with Cassius Clay.”

Ali LP-xClancy Eccles 45 from 1964 “I’m the Greatest” sells for three figures

Ali 45-z

When Pelé Tried His Hand at Pop

Thanks to my neighbor Stan, who graciously lent me a documentary, Once in a Lifetime, about the New York Cosmos and the groundbreaking-though-ill-fated North American Soccer League.  While last weekend’s recent record snowstorm raged, I was riveted to the screen, grateful to have power — and incredulous that the most prominent 1970s American soccer franchise (who once fielded such international icons as Pelé, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Franz Beckenbauer) was founded by executives from a major record label!

New York Cosmos DocumentaryThe New York Cosmos is a modern fairy tale, whose humble origins would include players dodging the broken glass on the team’s first playing field at Randall’s Island.  The first seismic shift in this Cinderella story occurs when Warner Communications CEO Steve Ross risks major shareholder ire by signing Brazil’s national hero, Pelé, for $5 million.   Pelé would play three seasons for the Cosmos from 1975-77 and finish out his professional career with an exhibition match between the Cosmos and Brazil’s Santos (where he began his career) in which he played, fascinatingly enough, for both teams.

Pelé, who is often ranked as the world’s finest footballer, would enter the realm of popular music the same year he officially hung up his jersey.  1977 would see Pelé join forces with renowned Brazilian bandleader, Sergio Mendes (who would headline 2012’s Silver Spring Jazz Festival) on a 45 released by Warner-distributed Atlantic Records.

Pelé 45Now you might be wondering why a music blog that’s devoted to boosting the legacies of under-recognized artists would profile someone who’s a household name the world over.  Excellent question, by the way.  And here’s the answer:  you can find a handful of YouTube audio clips for “Meu Mundo É Uma Bola” — and yet only a tiny percentage of the planet’s population have viewed/listened to them (i.e., 12,000+ currently)   How likely is it that the low numbers on YouTube can be explained by millions of Pelé fans preferring instead to listen to their original 45?  Not very.  Yet another musical mystery that vexes.

“Meu Mundo É Uma Bola” (i.e., “My World Is a Ball”)    Pelé     1977

I can only presume that the world’s greatest soccer star ended up not hitting the sales targets established by executives at Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, as Pelé’s musical career is a surprisingly and brutally short one.

The documentary makes excellent use of popular music to tell the story, one of the most inspired decisions being the use of Sparks‘ “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” to underscore the tension incurred when Steve Ross, in a naked attempt to boost attendance and add even more marquee power to the Cosmos, signs Giorgio Chinaglia, whose flamboyant playing style and outsized ego are in stark contrast to Pelé’s humble and team-oriented approach.  How amusing to discover that Chinalgia would release his one and only 45 – “I’m Football Crazy” – three years before Pele’s lone single for Atlantic.  Would you be infuriated to know that Chinaglia’s single has considerably more views on YouTube?

Giorgia Chinaglia 45Sports rockers might particularly enjoy Football45’s passel of picture sleeves that feature other famous footballers who once enjoyed a dalliance with pop music.

Hey Stan, I hope you don’t mind that I hang onto this documentary a little while longer — these Bonus Features aren’t going to watch themselves.

Mike Reid’s Bengal Ballad

I remember as a young Cincinnati Bengals fan what a brain-tickling proposition it was to have an NCAA All-American and All-Pro NFL defensive lineman who, when out of uniform, would play the piano with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and how this activity amusingly defied expectations of manly behavior in a manly era (this was around the same time that Rosie Grier revealed himself to be a needlepoint enthusiast).  I am, of course, referring to number 74, Mike Reid, who would leave football to become a top songwriter in Nashville, penning “Stranger in My House” for Ronnie Milsap and co-writing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” for Bonnie Raitt, among many other hits.

According to Joe Richard, who posted “A Time for Peace” on YouTube —

“Recorded in 1971, Mike Reid was still playing football for the Cincinnati Bengals.  The song was produced by long-time Cincinnati recording facility owner and music producer Shad O’Shea:

“A Time for Peace”     Mike Reid     1971

Randy McNutt, author of The Cincinnati Sound and King Records of Cincinnati, confirms that the song was originally released on Counterpart and then, guess what?  “Laurie leased it and re-issued it,” says McNutt, “It wasn’t a hit, but it was a good record.  Shad had a small orchestra on it!”

Mike ReidOddly, no images of this Mike Reid 45 (neither Counterpart nor Laurie) can be found online – clearly this is a forgotten song … but no longer.

July 2020 Update

Discogs now has a minimal entry for the Laurie 45 (mis-classified as “bubblegum”), though without the 45 label image, while 45Cat contributors, fortunately, have since uploaded high-res images for both releases.

Joe Richard very helpfully adds —

As I recall, it was released in late November or early December of 1971.  The only radio station in Cincinnati to give it any airplay at the time was 700 WLW, and then I only heard it when Jim LaBarbara was on the air.  I think the 45 was a one-time thing at the time for Mike since he was still playing for the Bengals.  However, he did make a few appearances on Nick Clooney’s daily shows on Channel 9, and then on Nick’s Channel 12 show which was on 11:30-12:30 in the morning/afternoon.

When I was 11-12, Shad was a popular DJ on WCPO 1230 radio in Cincinnati.  Mike Reid also appeared as a musician on one or 2 of the WEBN album projects from the 80s [e.g., plays clarinet for Danny Morgan on Album Project #4].  A few years ago Mike came to town for the Northern Kentucky Music Legends at Tower Park in Ft Thomas, sat in with Danny Morgan’s group on a couple of songs.  I posted one of the songs to youtube [“You Ain’t Going Nowhere“].

I befriended Shad O’Shea in 2002, visited him at his office in Cheviot, where he had mint copies of every 45 he had produced in a large file cabinet consisting of 6 large drawers full of 45s.

Note that the Counterpart label above gives engineering credit to Gene Lawson, inventor of the Lawson microphone.

Zero to 180 stories related to Counterpart Records + Shad O’Shea