“Stay after him, Jim, you got home in the ropes” was a great punchline, but it was no accident: My grandfather and I shared a fondness for boxing. During one of his hobo camper visits we went to see the Hagler-Hearns rematch on closed circuit television. During that last visit with him he told me to “keep an eye on this Tyson kid. He’s going to be the next champ.”
So it only made sense to come out swinging with a list of songs about boxing and boxers. And there’s the bell for round one:
“Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers,” Midnight Oil. I’ve mentioned this one before, but this is a much better place for it. Midnight Oil tells another harrowing tale of the underdog here, leaving me feeling a bit guilty about my love for the sweet science. Incidentally, Jody thought lead singer Peter Garrett was sexy, which may help to explain how a goon like me stood a chance with her.
“Bus Stop Boxer,” Eels. Two weeks in a row with Eels! We’re on a roll.
“The Hitter,” Bruce Springsteen. Now this is the Bruce that’s worthy of your playlist — simple, quiet stories about people. Devils and Dust is a great album, give it a go.
Bonus Bruce: I stumbled on this while looking for the above clip. It’s a nice Youtuber tribute to Smokin’ Joe:
“The Boxer,” Carbon Leaf. I don’t know anything about these guys — just another promo somebody sent me. Not a bad song, though, and on-topic:
“Theme From Jack Johnson,” Miles Davis. I’ll take whatever Miles I can get my hands on, but my favorite era is seventies Miles, when he found his fusion groove. A Tribute To Jack Johnson comes pretty early in that run, just a couple of albums after the break-thru Bitches Brew. If you’re new to Miles you might find it challenging, but on behalf of the late great trumpeter I’ll say fuck you, he didn’t make it for you. Miles would’ve wanted it that way. (And then he would’ve said fuck me for daring to speak for him.)
While we’re on the subject of great heavyweights, pick up the biography Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. It’s a brilliant read
“Muhammad Ali,” Faithless. This band is still kicking around, though officially they split up a couple of years ago. If you’re into trance/trip-hop you know them; if not, let me introduce you:
“Hurricane,” Charles Bradley. Okay, here’s the deal: This song has absolutely nothing to do with Ruben “Hurricane” Carter. For that you have to go to Dylan, and that song is so fucked out that I couldn’t justify a “Deep Cuts” appearance.
Meanwhile, Charles Bradley’s new album is one of my favorite releases of the year, so I figured I’d cheat and slip in this substitution. In the words of many a fighter, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.
“Boom Boom Mancini,” Warren Zevon. Everything about this clip is great: the late, great Warren Zevon getting it done on the late, great Late Night With David Letterman:
“The Boxer,” James Taylor and Alison Krauss. I love harmonies — love them — and nobody harmonized like Simon and Garfunkel. But you know that song all too well. Here’s JT and Ms. Alison doing justice to Paul Simon’s towering “The Boxer.”
So what do you know: turns out Wednesday night’s all right for fighting. Do you have some boxing songs to add? Get in the ring – I’m listening.
***SUPER DELUXE FRANK STALLONE BONUS CUT***