The first release from the Singles Project is a folk song about a true American folk character and hero, Muhammad Ali. The song chronicles the last match he ever fought, "The Drama in the Bahamas" fight against Tevor Berbick. With so much attention paid to his greatness and dominance throughout his career, as well as the larger than life character he embodied as a young man, it's easy to forget that his last few fights (and most of the Berbick match) were anything but inspiring.
This song began when I read a quote from Ali that gave me pause.
"Father time caught me, I'm sure this is it."
The humility and defeat in those words lead me to research when it was said, and that lead me to Ali/Berbick 12/11/1981.
Ali had failed to answer the bell in the 7th round of his previous fight and most people did not expect him to ever return to the ring. When he stepped in that night, he was doing so for no other reason than to save his dignity. Most people thought it was a suicide mission, but Ali stepped in the ropes and stood face to face with a young and powerful boxer who would leave that night thanking the 40 year old champion for "making him".
December 11, 1981, that's when the champ fought his last round. "Father time caught me, I'm sure this is it." were the very last words that he found.
I guess everybody knew this was your last fight, except a hopeful heart or two, and big ol' Trevor Berbick was like a freight train bound for you. Nobody thought you'd go the distance, "he's the greatest, but he's way past his prime", but a champ don't go down easy and Trevor Berbick was standing across from the greatest of all time.
You almost went down in the 7th round, you were hanging by the ropes. I held my breath, thought this was it but somehow you stayed up. "You gotta keep fightin'!" Angelo shouts from the corner, but you could always take a punch. you used to float like a butterfly all around 'em but you don't dance like you used to...much.
But you know in the 8th round a kinda miracle happened, at least some might say so, see the champ he came out dancing like he had so long ago. He hit a few lefts and rights, an uppercut and jab and then big ol' Trevor Berbick started bleeding...it was pretty bad.
When they rang the bell for that final round, there was a far off look in your eye but you tapped your gloves and you answered that bell one more time. One more thrill for the people, one more dance around the ring, one more time for that old butterfly to sting like a bee.
Nobody thought you'd go the distance, but you never even went down, and that whole crowd chanted "Ali! Ali!" when that last bell made it's sound. Even though you didn't win the fight, you gave it a hell of a run, and even Trevor Berbick had to thank you when it was done. And every man, woman, and child in Nassau that night watched the greatest champion of all time walk away and out of site.
No they never will forget you, I wish I would have met you when you were young. Muhammad Ali. "I'm the greatest, a bad man, and I'm pretty!"
Joe Johnson- Copyright 2015
from The Singles Project
track released August 29, 2015
Joe Johnson- Vocals, Guitar
Sean Fanning- Bass
Ian Bourgal- Engineer
all rights reserved