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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Leonard on Ali

Have been too busy--and on a much-needed vacation--this weekend to post about the passing the Muhammad Ali, one of my two greatest heroes of the 1960s (along with Dylan) who helped shape part of my life, cultural and political.  I did post on Facebook the famous photo of the two of them backstage at Madison Square Garden in 1975 (a concert I attended) and the video of Ali singing with another one of my idols, Sam Cooke.  I didn't expect to find anything about Leonard Cohen and Ali but just now Leonard's biographer Sylvie Simmons posted this on Facebook:

One time, it must have been 15 years ago, MOJO magazine was running one of those round-up pieces where we asked our musician heros to name their heroes. I called Leonard Cohen and asked him who his hero was."I don't know it's the designation 'hero' that I have difficulty with, because that implies some kind of reverence that is somewhat alien to my nature", he sad, and went on to name a whole lot of people he had "love and affection" for, from Roshi to Ramesh Balsekar, Lorca to Yeats.

And then the next morning he sent me an email. This is what it said:

i forgot
my hero is mohammed ali
as they say about the Timex in their ads
takes a lickin'
keeps on tickin'

Of course Muhammad Ali would be his hero. Though born worlds apart, there was a lot in common. Ali was a wise man, a fighter and poet. He worked harder than anyone and was generous with his money. He had dignity, courage and humour and stood up for what he believed.

Leonard's son Adam Cohen appears to have inherited Ali as his own hero, naming his son after him.
I've been reading so many fine words on Ali this weekend by people who knew him far better than I.

All I can add is that America has lost one of its greatest.

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