Ringo Starr Tells The Story Behind Those Iconic Beatles Photos With Muhammad Ali

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If you’ve seen any of those awkward ads tying in some Disney entertainment property with ABC’s NBA Finals coverage, you know how tenuous connections between famous people or concepts can be when they’re thrown together. That practice isn’t new, either, and one of its older iterations has come back to light now that one of the men in the photo, Muhammad Ali, has passed.

The Beatles were fresh off their legendary Ed Sullivan performance in 1964, and Ali [then Cassius Clay] was training for what would produce his first heavyweight title, his first bout against Sonny Liston, and the five men were simply thrown into a photo-op in the Miami gym in which the boxer was training. They didn’t really know who each other were, but that hardly matters to us now, considering the amount of world-beating power and charisma (albeit in wildly different forms) that was concentrated in that room. To see men of such significance playing so lightheartedly will always give one pause, and Rolling Stone was wise to ask Ringo Starr about that moment in time in the wake of Ali’s death. Here’s what he said:

“We did [our poses] on the day,” he says of the poses. “His cross to bear was that everybody you see him in a photo with – whether it’s Mandela, on a talk show, anybody – it’s always the punch photo.” He chuckles, adding capitals with his voice. “It’s always ‘The Punch Photo’! We were ‘The Punch Photo’!” Photographer Harry Benson took the definitive image, which shows Clay sending the mop tops colliding into one another with cartoonish ferocity.

“And then he’s carrying me. I don’t know why, he just picked me up!” Starr says. “It wasn’t like, ‘OK, pick him up now!’ He just suddenly did.” Surely there must have been some sort of warning? “No, he just grabbed me and lifted me up! What was I gonna say? ‘Hey, come outside. …'” The drummer raises his fists, but his mock-tough expression quickly breaks into a grin. “We only got out of the ring because he put me down.”

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Just remember that famous people never need a good reason to get together, and sometimes it’s worth it just to see them side by side, no matter what corporate interests might be at play.

(Via Rolling Stone)