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Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties Paperback – 11 May 2000

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Paperback, 11 May 2000
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New edition edition (11 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842935
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,444,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Marqusee was born in New York City in 1953, emigrated to Britain in 1971 and has now lived in London for more than 35 years.

Among his books are the prize-winning 'Anyone But England: an outsider looks at English cricket' (first published in 1994, revised and expanded 2005), 'War Minus the Shooting: a Journey through South Asia during cricket's World Cup'(1996), 'Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties' (1999), 'Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s' (first published 2003, revised and expanded 2005), 'If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew' (2008) and 'Saved by a Wandering Mind: Poems' (2009).

In addition to his writing, Mike has been active for several decades in numerous campaigns for social justice. In the early 80s he was a youth worker and trade union activist. For twenty years he was an active member of the Labour Party and editor of Labour Briefing. In 1995, he helped set up Hit Racism for Six, the campaign against racism in cricket. After leaving the Labour party in 2000, he helped establish both the Stop the War Coalition and Iraq Occupation Focus. On February 15, 2003, he was a speaker at the the half million strong anti-war demonstration in New York City. He is currently a member of the NUJ and lives in Hackney with his partner Liz Davies.

As well as his books, Mike has published articles on a wide variety of topics in (among others): The Guardian, The Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Observer, London Review of Books, Index on Censorship, BBC History Magazine, New Left Review, Red Pepper (in UK), The Nation, Colorlines (in USA), The Hindu, India Today, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Frontline, Outlook (in India).

Mike has also published longer articles and essays in a number of book-length collections and anthologies, including: 'Nothing Sacred: the New Cricket Culture' (Two Heads, 1996), 'Race, Sport and British Society'(Routledge, 2001), 'The New Ball' (Mainstream, 2000-2002), 'Beyond September 11th: An Anthology of Dissent' (Pluto, 2002), 'Following On: Post-Colonial Cricket' (Routledge, 2005), 'Selling US Wars' (Olive Branch Press, 2007) and 'A Time To Speak Out' (Verso, 2008). A chapter of his work is anthologised in 'The Picador Book of Cricket' (2005), and there is a lengthy interview with Mike in 'Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World' (2003). An essay on US sport in a global context has been reproduced in a widely used Prentice Hall textbook / reader entitled 'Common Culture' (6th Edition) edited by Michael Petracca.

Mike currently writes 'Level Playing Field', a column on politics and culture for The Hindu Sunday magazine, one of India's largest circulation English language publications, and 'Contending for the Living' for Red Pepper.

In 2004, he wrote and presented an hour-long BBC Radio documentary on the history of Pacifica, America's alternative radio network.

In 2005, Mike Marqusee was named an Honorary Faculty Fellow by the University of Brighton in recognition of his "contribution to the development of a critically-based form of journalistic scholarship in the social, cultural and political nature of contemporary global sport."

Mike's articles on a wide variety of topics can be found at:

Product Description

Amazon Review

Hero to some, traitor to others, Muhammad Ali managed to land powerful punches both in and out of the ring. What changed him from athlete to personality to a heavyweight of global reach? "At the core of the Ali story", Mike Marqusee reminds us, "is a young man who made daunting choices and stuck to them in the face of ghastly threats and glittering inducements." Redemption Song explores those choices in the context of the turbulent times in which they were made.

Ali and the 60s were a naturally synergistic fit. It was a time of great change, and Ali, the seeker, had remarkable access to the fomenters of that change. They, in turn, had a prime influence on his symbolic rebirth and re-emergence. As Redemption Song recounts, the night the young Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston for the title in 1964, he skipped the traditional post-fight party and headed straight for Miami's black ghetto where he met with Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and the running back Jim Brown, an early advocate of black rights in sports. The next morning, announcing to the white world that "I'm free to be what I want" and "I don't have to be what you want me to be," he confirmed rumours about his conversion to Islam.

The conversion to Islam was only one of Ali's "daunting choices". As Marqusee moves through the decade, he carefully traces Ali's choices to confront the establishment and stand as a symbol of civil rights and the anti-war effort; his relationships with Malcolm X, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King; and the importance of his travels to Africa. There's plenty of boxing too, but Marqusee is more interested in how Ali expanded that arena to take in the kinds of fights that go beyond the ropes. It's a tall order, but Redemption Song fulfils it with solid reporting and worthy analysis. --Jeff Silverman,


"A beautiful book."--Arundhati Roy

"Among the slew of recent Ali books, here's one that returns the political sting to 'The Greatest' ... As Marqusee portrays him, Ali is still the righteous outlaw, as badass as ever and still in the eye of a global storm."--"Time Out New York"

"Fascinating, well-written, entertaining and significant. "Redemption Song" provides rare and important insights into Muhammad Ali and his immense global impact on a turbulent and ground-breaking era."--Leon Gast

"As Marqusee charts how Ali helped create a global consciousness, he succeeds in knocking Ali off the respectable pedestal on which American culture had placed him, resurrecting him as the radical figure he truly was ... a vibrant historical essay."--"Publishers Weekly"

"A thrilling book about a true and enduring hero ... Mike Marqusee has done him, and us, proud."--John Pilger

"Excellent ... Reminds us just how explosive and divisive a figure Ali was."--"Independent on Sunday"

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Sept. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a scintillating book and is a must for those born in or who feel close to whatever it was that came to be called the Sixties. In this sense it would be a great book to send to Lord Tebbit of Bigotry for a present. It'll also do nicely for those, like Norm, who might want a digestible summary of the life and times of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. It will also make you want to pick up Martin Duberman's biography of Paul Robseon, stick on Bob Dylan and much more. In Marqusse's book, Ali is a sliver thread running through the turbulent, often murderous decade. It contains a striking and genuinely moving evocation of Ali in all his manifestations and through all his ages - made all the more poignant by the knowledge of how the game eventaully laid him to waste. We read about the white context for black life and sport, the rumbling earthquake that was Ali as he converts to Islam, his involvement with the Nation of Islam, the draft fiasco, the raising of black consciousness and Ali's role as reluctant ambasssador. The book concludes by following Ali's career to its tawdry end. In many ways it's at its strongest here as it charts the Frazier fights, the rumble in the jungle (a reminder that so much of today's sport is mere pantomime - and not just boxing), the defeat by Larry Holmes and on into retirement. There is a moving vignette with reporters from the Times of India and Marqusse's finally puts his restraint to one side to attack the iniquity and slavery of modern sportdom. CLR James described Ali as the "future in the present". In this wonderful book, Marqusse brings us back to the future - ringside with the greatest and his shining humanity.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Aug. 2000
Format: Paperback
By using Ali as the leading man in his story, Mike Marqusee is immediately able to reach all of humanity in an instant. And, by countering with Malcolm X, he injects the seriousness of his message and the time that is the subject of his analysis.
Ali is "The Greatest" symbol of resistance against Governmental and Societal oppression in modern times. But, he was not alone. Marqusee tells of Dylan, Sam Cooke, Dr. King, Jack Johnson, DuBois, Lumumba, Garvey, the Black Panthers, etc., etc. All of them fought personal battles against the injustices of their time. "Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties " tells their stories, too.
This book is a treasure. It tells the tale of the Sixties with a clear and soulful voice. It should be an inspiration to the youth of today.
"Fight the Power!"
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Jun. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is yet another excellent book on The Greatest, and one that deserves more coverage than has been given in the press. Marqusee uses three sixties icons - Ali, Dylan and Malcolm X - to illustrate the confusion and unrest that occurred during this tumultuous decade and he has suceeded in producing a thoughtful and insightful interpretative biography.
To Marqusee, Malcolm X exerted a tremendous influence on the young Ali, more so than even the Champ admitted and it is this focus that gives Redemption Song much of its verve. The section where Malcolm, expelled from the Nation of Islam, became a pariah to one of his close friends and heroes is particularly heartbreaking and relatively critical of Ali, which is a rarity in writing on the man.
Marqusee also encourages the reader to link the story of Dylan's flight from politics to existentialism to Ali's increasing politicisation, which is another tremendous achievement. In addition, there are pieces on the importance of the African independence movements and how they affected Ali's world view, and a wary coda that establishes Ali's central role in the rise of Don King.
All in all, an excellent work.
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