Muhammad Ali was not only one of the greatest boxers and activists of all time, he was a great entertainer.
Muhammad Ali – heavyweight champion, draft resister, Muslim convert – was also a pop-culture figure of unprecedented dimensions. At one time, he was considered the most recognizable person on the planet.
In the 1960s and ’70s, his name, face and voice were all over TV and radio, the mass media of the day. Here are a few cultural artifacts of that time that might surprise you.
“I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali” was a short-lived animated series on NBC in 1977. Ali’s own voice was featured.
“Black Superman,” by English recording artist Johnny Wakelin, climbed the Billboard charts in 1975, peaking at no. 21. One of the catchiest novelty songs in an era lousy with novelty songs (remember “A Boy Named Sue,” 1969, or “Kung Fu Fighting,” 1974?), it cribbed one of Ali’s famous taunts, “Muhammad, Muhammad Ali / He floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.”
Before there was “Survivor” or “American Idol,” there was the prototypical reality show, “This Is Your Life.” This episode from 1978 took Muhammad Ali on a surprise walk through his personal history. Among the guests was singer Tom Jones, who told Ali, “You are the greatest boxer of all time … not only a boxer, I think you’re one of the greatest entertainers.”