Cassius Clay

I Am the Greatest!

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As the 20th century wound down, it was time to honor all the true greats who had inhabited its time frame. Certainly one of those deserving a tip of the hat was Muhammad Ali, who single-handedly changed boxing and how African-Americans were treated in that sport. He stands as a model of black pride, a person who stood by his beliefs no matter the cost. But turn back the clock to the early '60s and Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay, a loudmouthed prize fighter who was making headlines by outrageous behavior both in and out of the ring. He recited poetry, yammered on incessantly about how pretty he was, and made with the promo noise not unlike that of a modern day WWF wrestler. It was big enough news back then that Columbia Records had him record an entire album of his poetry for public consumption. Hey, if the Bickersons sold, maybe this big-mouthed boxing kid would too. The result is like listening to almost any other early-'60s comedy album because, racial pride aside, that's exactly how this album was viewed and sold back then. Clay runs through a set of his poems with varied musical backing and an audience to laugh and applaud in all the right spots. Those of you old enough to remember Ali verbally sparring with Howard Cosell will hear those seeds sown right here. I Am the Greatest! is one of the strangest LPs to come down the pike, but a marvelous souvenir of a simpler time in America's history.

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