Friday Five: Boxers

Juli Thanki | July 29th, 2011

Boxing is the sweet science, and, lucky for us, it’s the subject of some pretty sweet songs, too. Let’s check out a few of them.

5. Bill Evans and Megan Lynch – Song for Sonny Liston
Liston, who had “a left like Henry’s hammer,” was one of the finest boxers of the 20th century. This cover of Mark Knopfler’s song is a fine tribute, as Lynch, accompanied by Evans’ banjo, describes everything from Liston’s troubled childhood to his criminal activities to his mysterious death (declared to be from a heroin overdose, though his wife said he hated needles).

4. Todd Snider – Iron Mike’s Main Man’s Last Request
Here, Tyson’s main man does everything a main man should do: agree with everything, call his ex-wife a gold digger, and offer helpful suggestions like “keep your eyes fixed on this fight” and “let’s take the Porsche to the titty bar.” Things fall apart when he asks to borrow three hundred bucks—fair compensation for the man who carried the boombox, leads the entourage, and washes the cars, if you ask me.

3. Jim Lauderdale – Jack Dempsey’s Crown
This bluegrass tune can be found on Lauderdale’s newest album, Reason and Rhyme, a collaboration with Robert Hunter. It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling, as a down on his luck ex-boxer explains why he’s “such a wreck”: “Ever since I won Jack Dempsey’s crown/There doesn’t seem no place to go but down.”

2. Bob Dylan – Hurricane
Dylan wrote this eight minute protest song about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a middleweight arrested (and later freed) for a triple murder in 1966. The song focuses on Carter’s trial, but about Hurricane’s fighting, Dylan says: “Rubin could take a man out with just one punch/But he never did like to talk about it all that much/’It’s my work,’ he’d say, ‘and I do it for pay/And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way.'”

1. Emmylou Harris – The Boxer
Emmylou’s cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic is, like nearly all of her covers, fantastic. Paul Simon penned the song at a time when critics were being less than kind about his music, placing himself in the role of the boxer, “a fighter by his trade” who carries the reminders of “every glove that laid him down.” Even after those knockouts, the man just won’t stay down: the final lyric leaves listeners with the image of the fighter who still remains. Waylon Jennings and Chet Atkins have also covered the song.

  1. Leeann Ward
    July 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I was hoping this would be at the top. Great cover.

  2. Ken Morton, Jr.
    July 29, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Juli, nice Friday Five as usual. One more I’ll throw out there is one of my favorite Springsteen tracks. It’s called “The Hitter” off of his 2005 Devils and Dust album.

  3. Jon
    July 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Nice to see my BFF ML get some props here!

  4. Rick
    July 29, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Don’t care about sports. Don’t care about songs about sports. But I will admit I’ve always loved the original Simon & Garfunkel version of “The Boxer” for its musicality and especially the harmonica parts! (lol)

  5. Paul W Dennis
    July 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I really liked both the Simon & Garfunkel and Emmylou Harris versions of the boxer.


    Dylan’s “Hurricane” really annoyed me, as did the movie THE HURRICANE, both filled with much fiction as it contained about his boxing career.
    (I reserve judgment on his guilt or innocence on the murder charge)

    Hurricane Carter was a good, but not great boxer. He lost the middleweight title shot he had against Joey Giardello fading in the later rounds, and Dick Tiger mopped the floor with him in a non-title fight. He won 27 of his 40 fights with 12 losses and 1 draw – hardly the stuff of which legends are made


    The Statler Brothers had a neat song “The Kid’s Last Fight”

  6. Jeremy Dylan
    July 31, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Glad to see JACK DEMPSEY’S CROWN make an appearance here. It was my initial favourite track from Reason and Rhyme.

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