Elvis Presley is the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and has had a tremendous impact on music and artists that came after him.
He also got inspiration from a variety of artists like Chuck Berry, Bill Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, and other soulful, R&B, and pop singers.
While musical inspiration is harder to pinpoint, Elvis Presley had a direct influence on boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
Elvis Presley Inspired Muhammad Ali
According to the Elvis Biography site, Elvis Presley was Muhammad Ali’s second-favorite musical artist. He had grown up listening to and watching Presley on TV.
“When I was 15 years old and saw Elvis on TV, I wanted to be Elvis. Other kids in the neighborhood were listening to Ray Charles and James Brown, but I listened to Elvis. I admired him so much and I decided that if I was going to be famous, I’d do it just like him. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to entertain people and be loved by the people and make the girls admire me so much,” Ali said.
Elvis Presley hadn’t reached the international success level until 1956. He had signed with RCA Victor and recorded songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as TV appearances and other chart-toppers, Presley had become the voice and look of the newly popularized rock ‘n’ roll genre.
Elvis Presley was incredibly close with his mother. The two would share the same bed while Presley was growing up. A couple of the first songs he ever recorded were “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” which were actually a birthday gift for his mother. When she passed away in 1958, it left Presley irreversibly heartbroken.
However, before he had become an international success and had screaming fans, he promised someone something. Presley promised to buy his mother a car and a house. He had followed through with this promise and bought his mother a pink Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60. His mother did not have a driver’s license, so Elvis ended up driving it around more with his band.
Muhammad Ali had heard this story and wanted to do something similar.
“I was 14 years old when I heard Elvis say that, and that made me want to do the same thing. I said, ‘When I get rich and famous I’m going to buy my mother a car and then a house.’ After my first pro fight, I bought my mother a pink Cadillac… And after my second fight I bought my folks a house. Just like Elvis,” Ali said.
Presley and Ali Friendship
The two had actually met in February 1973. Ali gave Elvis Presley signed boxing gloves. Meanwhile, Presley gave Ali a bejeweled white robe that looked like the jumpsuits he was infamous for performing in.
The robe said “People’s Choice” on the back, although it was meant to say “People’s Champ.”
In fact, the two were friends all the way up until Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. Ali got an invitation to drive back to Los Angeles in Elvis’ gold-plated Cadillac station wagon. He had to turn it down at the time.
Ali spoke at the Elvis Week annual memorial in 1985. He sang the crowd a few lines of “Don’t Be Cruel.”
Ali called himself the “greatest.” However, he also gave Elvis Presley that title for his soul-sound and heavy influence on music.