Sports Illustrated's Ultimate Playlist (cont.)
Dropkick Murphys, 2005
"Another murderous right/Another left hook from hell/A bloody war on the Boardwalk/And the kid from Lowell rises to the bell." Before Micky Ward's tale was immortalized by Mark Wahlberg in the 2010 film The Fighter, this hyperactive Irish-flavored punk band from Boston paid a knockout tribute to the never-say-die Irish-American boxer.
Kurtis Blow, 1984
Maybe you prefer the updated 2002 version by Bow Wow, but respect must be paid to the original, by one of rap's pioneers. Blow helped invent the form, becoming the first rapper to sign with a major record label, Mercury. Basketball established a link between hip-hop and hoops that has only grown and strengthened since (somehow surviving Allen Iverson's Jewelz phase). And with one of rap's first videos -- replete with ballers, ninja fighters, an inexplicable fat guy eating a hot dog next to a giant chicken and endless trash talk -- the song reinforced the idea, good or bad, that basketball is not as much about the game as about the player.
Bonus Track: NBA Rap by Hurt Em' Bad in 1982, played its part too in helping hip-hop cross over.
Screaming Headless Torsos, 2001
No one combined fun and funky quite like former Sixers center Darryl Dawkins, and this cut from an influential '80s jazz-funk band is a suitable tribute to the first citizen of Lovetron. The Torsos lay out the perfect vibe for Double D with a soulful beat topped with Hendrix-style guitar licks, as vocalist Dean Bowman sonorously sings, "Some still may wonder/Of the glorious power of Chocolate Thunder./A legend at the most/Down low in the post/Guard him and you're toast."
Mike Aiken, 2003
There are hundreds of sailing shanties, and there's Christopher Cross's Sailing and Jimmy Buffett's Take It Back (the best and perhaps only America's Cup rooting song). But nobody sings about the nautical life better than Aiken. He spends much of the year aboard a 42-foot cutter near Chesapeake, Va., and this simple ode to being on the water explains the appeal.
Dave Frishberg, 1969
It's little more than Frishberg crooning colorful names of ballplayers from the '40s to jazzy piano lines, but it's wonderfully entertaining. (Where else will you hear Max Lanier rhymed with Johnny Vander Meer?) The one discordant note: The song's mellow lilt hardly fits with the hard-drinking and combative Mungo -- who, legend has it, once had to be secreted out of a restaurant in Cuba in a laundry bin to avoid an angry husband with a butcher knife.
It might have the richest history of any sports song. The tune was originally an English ballad from the 1700s telling the story of an 11-year-old gelding belonging to Lord Godolphin, who sent the horse to Ireland to race an uppity landowner's champion. Stewball made its way to America as a slaves' work song. In Leadbelly's version, the iconic bluesman urges underdog-loving horseplayers, "Bet on Stewball, you might win, win, win." A different version was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963.
SI Now: Make or break year for Danica Patrick
SI Now: Russell Simmons on the benefits of meditation for athletes