Album: Black Superman (1975)
Charted: 7 21

Songfacts®:

  • The title on the single is "Black Superman - 'Muhammad Ali." credited to J. Wakelin, it was recorded on the Pye label by Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band, produced by Robin Blanchflower and arranged by Charles Blackwell. The B Side was "Bang The Drum."

    "Black Superman" is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the self-proclaimed "The Greatest." Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, the man from Louisville who became first Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali may not be quite the best heavyweight of all time, but probably only Larry Holmes - who held the world title for seven years - and one or two others, can have a stronger claim, and in the charisma stakes, Ali wins hands down.

    The song incorporates Ali's aphorism "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Ali held the world heavyweight title three times, becoming the first man to regain it twice. He took his Moslem name after converting to Islam, becoming a follower of Elijah Muhammad of the Black Muslims (later the Nation of Islam).

    Although he cultivated an air of arrogance both in and out of the ring, and was at times perceived to make anti-white statements, there was always something slightly irreverent about Ali; he was certainly a soft touch, and in addition to raising the profile of boxing worldwide and inspiring a generation of - not just black - youth, he earned wide admiration for his principled stand against the draft at the time of the Vietnam War. No doubt he could have followed in the steps of Elvis; in Vietnam he would certainly have ended up giving exhibition bouts or sports coaching, and on an honorable discharge he could have gone into films as did the far less talented and intelligent O.J. Simpson, but hitting a willing opponent on level terms in the boxing ring was one thing; murdering innocent men, women and children in their beds - as he saw it - was another thing entirely. Although at the time, The Greatest was denounced by black leaders as politically naïve or even dumb, his judgment has stood the test of time as America in particular and other Western nations have become embroiled in perpetual wars for perpetual peace. Here's more on Ali's musical legacy.
  • "Black Superman" was Wakelin's debut single; the Kinshasa Band did not exist, although events in Kinshasa the previous year were the direct inspiration for the song; in October 1974, Ali scored probably his most famous victory when he knocked out the previously undefeated George Foreman in the eighth round of the now historic "Rumble in the Jungle." At the time, if anyone could be considered a Black Superman it would have been Foreman; he took to his defense a staggering record of forty wins in forty professional fights with 37 knock outs including a two round knock out of Joe Frazier and a two round knock out of Ken Norton, the only two men to beat Ali. On a line through Frazier and Norton, and allowing for Ali's lack of activity, the older man should have been blown away, but Ali soaked up everything the heavy punching Foreman could throw at him and using his "rope-a-dope" tactics, upset the odds to win his world breaking third title.
  • In spite of his reggae style and apparent "blackness" of his vocals, Johnny Wakelin is a white man, and was born in Brighton, the hometown of an even cheekier chappie, Max Miller, whose records were blue rather than black.

    As novelty records go, "Black Superman" was extraordinarily successful, reaching number one in Australia, and hitting the charts in a number of other countries. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3

Comments: 1

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenAfter his last bout with Larry Holmes, he floated like a bee and stung like a butterfly.
see more comments

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