Cassius X: A Legend in the Making


‘Cassius X is more than a biography it is an exploration of a life against the most dramatic social landscape.’

Cassius X is more than a biography;  it tells the remarkable story of global icon Muhammad Ali converting to Islam and preparing for his infamous title fight against former convict Sonny Liston, set against the most dramatic social landscape – racism and segregation, the rise of civil rights, the mafia’s controlling interests in boxing, the origins of soul music and the historic wars at the heart of the Nation of Islam, which eventually led to the assassination of Malcolm X.

The book is a prequel to Stuart Cosgrove’s award-winning trilogy of books on the history of soul music – Detroit 67, Memphis 68 and Harlem 69 – and uses intensive research and sweeping storytelling  to shine a new light on a legend in the days before he became an icon. Here, he shares a playlist to accompany the book.


Cassius X: A Legend in the Making
By Stuart Cosgrove
Published by Polygon



Boxing and Soul: A Playlist


‘Night Train’ by James Brown and the Famous Flames (King, 1961)

Sonny Liston’s signature tune. A blistering R&B reworking of Jimmy Forrest’s St Louis jump-jazz classic.


‘You Beat Me To The Punch’ by Mary Wells (Motown, 1962)

Smokey Robinson uses the metaphors of boxing to enrich this early Motown love song.


‘First Round Knockout’ by Joe Frazier (Motown, 1975)

Disco king Van McCoy oversees the northern soul rarity by heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier.


‘Love TKO’ by Teddy Pendergrass (Philadelphia International, 1980)

A master vocalist sings this great Philly love song written by Cecil Womack. The song uses the metaphors of boxing to convey lost love. Surely, the only time that the technical knockout (TKO) has made it into music.


‘Doin’ The Ali Shuffle’ Alvin Cash (Mar-V-lus 1967)

Chicago funk maestro Alvin Cash pays homage to Muhammad Ali and his trademark canvas dance – the Ali shuffle.


‘Knock Out’ by Margie Joseph (HCRC, 1982)

The great Mississippi soul singer who was often compared to Aretha Franklin survived the shift into disco and club music and this was one of her best-selling records.


‘Soul Power’ by James Brown (King, 1971)

The Godfather powers through this funk anthem, the title track of the now famous concert that supported Muhammad Ali v. George Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.


‘Night Train’ by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (Columbia, 1964)

The organ-led Mod version of Sonny Liston’s signature tune from Fame’s album Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo.


The Spinners ‘I’ll Be Around’ (Atlantic 1972)

Not boxing-themed, but a standout track from the soundtrack to When We Were Kings, the 1999 Oscar-winning documentary about Ali and Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.


‘Knock Him Down Whiskey’ by Sugar Ray Robinson (King, 1953)

The legendary boxer leads a jazz and R&B tribute to whisky. Sugar Ray is supported by Earl ‘Fatha’ Hynes and his Orchestra.


Cassius X: A Legend in the Making by Stuart Cosgrove is published by Polygon, priced £17.99.

You can catch Stuart Cosgrove talking Val McDermid at this year’s online Edinburgh International Book Festival. Book your free spot here.

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