Sports Illustrated's Ultimate Playlist (cont.)
Simon & Garfunkel, 1969
When New York City was knocked onto the canvas in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Paul Simon played this classic about a troubled pugilist on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following the terrorist attacks. Simon sings that, despite being discouraged and down on his luck, "the fighter still remains" and refuses to leave the city -- the perfect message of perseverance for a country struggling to get back on its feet after absorbing a brutal blow. Simon told Playboy in 1984 that the boxer in the song was really a metaphor for himself, a way of describing his reaction when the enormously popular Simon and Art Garfunkel started to get negative feedback from music critics in the late 1960s. "Everybody's beating me up," he said, "and I'm telling you now I'm going to go away if you don't stop."
The Tragically Hip, 1992
This clever rocker tells the story of Bill Barilko, a Maple Leafs defenseman who scored only five goals in 47 career playoff games but made his last one count: He won the 1951 Stanley Cup with an overtime score against the Canadiens. Barilko disappeared weeks later, presumed lost in a small-plane crash on his way home from a fishing trip. The Leafs' fortunes plummeted as well. They wouldn't win another Cup until 1962 -- the same year Barilko's body was found in the wild.
John Fogerty, 1985
Fogerty was in a slump in 1985. He hadn't put out an album in more than a decade and was mired in litigation with an old record company. Like a desperate ballplayer, he needed a hit. "As I thought about different things that were special or important to me," he says, "I remembered the idea of centerfield I'd had as a kid."
When Fogerty was growing up in Berkeley, Calif., "My dad and my uncles would talk about Joe DiMaggio and their eyes would get real big," he says. "I got the idea that centerfield at Yankee Stadium must be the center of the universe and the coolest of all places. I said, 'That's it, I want to be in centerfield.'"
Centerfield became the name of the album, but it didn't occur to Fogerty until most of the tracks were finished that adding a song about the position would make it perfect. The album went double platinum and was No. 1 on the Billboard charts -- a certified home run.
The Chicago-born rapper gets inside the head of a high school hoops star and presents a haunting interior monologue about the promises and pitfalls of being an NBA wannabe. Hoop dreams can be a blessing and a curse for kids looking to escape the inner city: "For the game of life, full courts ain't preppin' us/Schools want me, but the ghost of Manigault haunts me." The baller's interest in a life of letters, though, is limited to luxury cars (SEs and GSs, he says); he's aware of the tragic example of Len Bias, but he chooses to ignore those lessons ("Either rich poor or Mike is who I wanna be like/Story of many black males that I refuse to rewrite"). Common, who also starred as a fictional New Jersey Net in the 2010 movie Just Wright, knows his pro hoops. His father, Lonnie Lynn, played for the ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers.
Ry Cooder, 2005
Cooder, the producer and guitarist who united a troupe of Cuban musicians for the 1997 album Buena Vista Social Club, got a Grammy nomination eight years later for his album Chávez Ravine. The record tells the story of the Mexican-Americans displaced from their Los Angeles neighborhood in the 1950s for what was supposed to be a public-housing project, but in a bit of crony capitalism became the Dodgers' home instead. 3rd Base laid out over a languorous Latin beat, tells the story of a stadium worker fondly remembering his old home, which once stood where third base is.
Bonus Track: There Used to Be a Ballpark by Frank Sinatra. This 1973 tune has just the opposite sentiment: It laments the demolition of a ballpark to build a housing project.
Beneath a tough urban beat, the British dance band tells a sweet tale of a young black kid who becomes more confident by following the example of Ali: "Ten years old suddenly bold/Cause I resolved to live like my hero in the ring." Vocalist Maxi Jazz raps on top of a pulsing bass line. It's a strange mix of Philly soul and British trip-hop, and it works.
Canucks blow 3-0 lead as Isles score 7 in 3rd period to win
Kings beat Flames to win their eighth game in a row