Bob Dylan has paid tribute to Muhammad Ali, after the boxer died aged 74 on Friday (June 3) following a long battle against Parkinson’s Disease.
Dylan was an amateur boxer as a teenager and praised Ali on his website. Dylan wrote: “If the measure of greatness is to gladden the heart of every human being on the face of the earth, then he truly was the greatest. In every way he was the bravest, the kindest and the most excellent of men.”
On Dylan’s 1964 song ‘I Shall Be Free No 10’, he sang about Ali, who was then still called Cassius Clay. After Clay defeated Sonny Liston that year to become World Heavyweight Champion for the first time, Dylan sang: “I was shadowboxing earlier in the day/I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay”.
Ali appeared on stage at Dylan’s concert in New York in 1975, following the release of Dylan’s song ‘Hurricane’, which protested against boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful conviction for murder. Ali phoned Carter in prison on stage during the show, where Ali and Dylan were joined by Carter’s wife and daughter. Carter was eventually released in 1985 after serving 19 years.
Dylan also went to Ali’s fight with Joe Frazier in New York in 1971, which proved to be Ali’s first defeat and saw Frazier become champion.