"Muhammad Ali" Docuseries by Ken Burns on PBS


There are several reasons I am recommending the four-part "Muhammad Ali" documentary on PBS. It is absolutely fascinating from so many different angles; black versus white culture, north against south, Christianity in opposition to Islam, and a national view as well as a global one. You don’t have to be a boxing aficionado to appreciate the skills that Ali possessed. In his younger years, he was the perfect human embodiment with strength, agility, a chiseled physique and the grace of a dancer, coupled with a face that even he deemed pretty.

This is another gem of a series from Ken Burns who could make anything interesting. Give him a juicy topic like Muhammad Ali and you entice viewers into being riveted by American history. Whether you were an Ali fan or detractor, he seemed to be at the nexus of everything from conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam, the internecine war between Elijah Muhammad and Malcom X, or his amusing rhymes which foreshadowed rap.

I have a fun personal connection to this PBS offering. One of my talented piano students, Jonathan Eig, is a creative producer and talking head in the four episodes. His 2017 biography of Muhammad Ali was one of the inspirations for this erudite, yet entertaining appraisal of the boxing champion’s life.