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One had the perfect traits of a boxer: fast hands, unmatched foot speed, great reach. The ability to dodge, and later take, most punches, all with the grace of a gazelle. The other had all the qualities of a singer: perfect pitch, vibrato, presence, incredible phrasing, finger-snapping style. He was, in short, the voice.

When Ali ordered his scene, no one even approached it. The self-proclaimed “greatest of all time” forced the world to listen, but he didn’t need to raise his voice. It was a picture that was certainly worth a thousand words. Watch any Ali fight in his prime and you will understand.

The crooner was no different in his element. Singers come and go but this one was different. It inspired writers and arrangers, conductors and players to deliver the goods. He created the ambiance album, the saloon song, the swing with a shattering orchestra and much more. He spawned countless imitators, but only his voice and presence could light the scene for over fifty years.

Ali also elevated the game, taking boxing from a mere sport to a spectacle, an event, while elevating the stock market, as well as the public, to new heights. And yet, when religious idealism got the better of Ali, he left the scene rather than sacrificing his beliefs. And while he may have given up on the title of “heavyweight world champion,” he got another admirable one: the ambassador to stand up for what you believe at all costs. Later, when fate decided to let him regain his title after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, he came back in force.

Well almost.

At first we tried not to notice slower hands, slower Ali signature shuffle, not so fast reflexes. But it didn’t really matter. He kept winning, right? Maybe not with lightning-quick hit combinations, but it seemed like this wizard had swapped his old bag of stuff for a few new ones. Most surprising was his relentless ability to take a punch. And how about the Ali Rope a dope? That little shot of George Foreman that scorching night in Zaire 35 years ago gave Ali what he had been fighting for almost seven years: his title.

Sinatra also had his own bag of stuff and like Ali he didn’t have to rely on just one style. So when the fifties said goodnight to the big band and hello to rock and roll and the Beatles, Sinatra could easily have been catapulted into extinction, but true to his ways, he remained relevant. He recorded with a wide range of arrangers, never settling into a groove he couldn’t get out of. Riddle, Jenkins, May, Costa, Jones, Count Basie, Mandel, Jobim. They kept the crooner alive and relevant without sacrificing his artistic roots. All the Way, Fly Me to the Moon, The Gal That Got Away, One For My Baby, The Way You Look Tonight, Girl From Ipanema. You got the idea. And like Ali, he could never get away well enough on his own. He needed to count, needed to feel a connection with the only thing that ticked him – his audience. And so, when most of the older performers are sitting on a golf course or restaurant, remembering the good old days, Frank was singing about them. Whether it’s a really good year, or That’s Life, My Way, or later New York, New York, Frank kept going to the office. He even reinvented himself as a performer. As he got closer to the great Five-O, Sinatra gave birth to another institution: The Rat Pack. Vegas would never be the same. Talk about those thousand word pictures – the Marquis of Caesars would just read “He’s here” and the venue would be sold before you knew who “he” was.

It was the same with Ali. Even after her Thrilla in Manila when it looked like her tank was almost empty… well, that bunny kept moving. For me, Ali’s greatness was summed up in a 1977 fight with the much younger and much stronger Ernie Shavers. Not a big fight. Not a lot of dancing. No rope a dope. But after 14 rounds of hard punches, mostly to Ali’s head, Ali gathers the strength of I Don’t Know Where and lands several consecutive punches, almost knocking out Shavers, if not for the sound of the final bell. .

This fight said it all.

He had his heart to win, even when his body said no. The will and determination to continue when most of the others are ready to throw in the towel.

I guess that’s why all the fuss was actually. Their resilience. Their ability to take a punch and get back up. And of course, their longevity. Ali taught me that the fight is not over until it is over. Just look at how many fights he’s won in the last few rounds. The lessons of Sinatra also taught me that a vocal hemorrhage, an abandoned record company, public disgrace, musical fashions, was not a reason why a good singer could not reinvent himself and achieve success. new heights.

You could say that Sinatra and Ali had many rebirths, without many deaths. They both recited poetry, danced in their respective genres, and skyrocketed ratings. Anytime one of them was part of something, it BECAME something, just by their association with it. And the older they got, the more their mystique grew. It didn’t matter that the punches were so quick, or the voice so agile. The world still wanted to see them, to have one last glimpse of the living legends, if nothing else.

The two were the bigger ones, both did it in their own way, and while I guess they maybe stayed on stage a little longer than they should have, who could blame them? Wouldn’t you like to see what it was about?


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