Music can come from the most unlikely places. Take that gawky-looking white guy on the far left who looks like he should be selling dodgy used cars. That’s the great Rod Temperton who died of cancer last week and wrote some of the best dance records ever made.
Temperton grew up in the northern English seaside resort of Cleethorpes which is hardly ranked with Memphis or Detroit as a breeding ground of great black music, but as a member of the Anglo-American band Heatwave he was responsible for such classics as “Boogie Nights”, “Always and Forever”, “The Groove Line”, and “Gangsters Of The Groove” which would be almost enough for anyone to earn a place in the songwriters Hall of Fame. But he also wrote songs for other artists which included Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and “Off The Wall”, The Brothers Johnson’s “Stomp”, and George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” among many, many, many others. The list is quite ridiculous.
I imagine nearly everyone reading this blog knows who Temperton is, but he always kept a low profile and the average punter wouldn’t know his name from Adam. But you can bet if you’re a certain age you know all the words to several of his songs and he provided the soundtrack to your Saturday nights. For that he will always be remembered and loved.
If you weren’t around when the late, and very great Muhammad Ali was in his pomp in the 60s and 70s you probably can’t imagine how famous and iconic he was, especially for a boxer. I mean, who the fuck even knows who the heavyweight champion is these days?
But everyone knew who Ali was, for a while he was the most famous man in the world and probably deserved to be. Not just for his incredible float-like-a-butterfly boxing talent, it was also his outsize personality, his gift of the gab (he turned trash talking into poetry), his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War (which cost him several of his prime fighting years), and as a symbol of black pride as potent as Martin Luther King or James Brown. He was as dazzling outside the ring as he was in it.
Us kids knew nothing about Vietnam, Islam, or Black Power, we just thought of him like he was a superhero. When he fought Joe Frazier in 1971 everyone in my school wanted Ali to win and I got into a playground fight with another kid because I said I wanted Frazier. Not that I was some huge Joe Frazier fan or even knew anything about boxing, I was just being a contrarian prick by going against popular choice. I still do that.
Even though I was right — Frazier won — being against Ali now feels like being anti-life, and joy, and even history — because of course he came back and beat Frazier in their next two fights.