Muhammad Ali's Grammy-Nominated Album About Fighting Tooth Decay

Muhammad Ali was both a privilege and a terror to watch in the ring. Upon his death in June 2016, per the BBC, names from the industry and beyond paid their respects to this titanic figure. As iconic boxing talent Floyd Mayweather Jr. put it, "There will never be another Muhammad Ali. The black community all around the world, black people all around the world, needed him. He was the voice for us. He's the voice for me to be where I'm at today."

This really says it all. A fierce foe in the ring he may have been, but outside of it, Ali fought for something even more valuable. A passionate activist, he stood for the causes that mattered to him and to all of us. The battle against tooth decay was just one of those, and he used an unexpected medium to fight that battle: song.

As Biography reports, Ali had both his right to box and his much-celebrated title as world champion taken from him in 1967, when he refused to serve in the army. Ali reportedly stated that he was a member of the Nation of Islam (which he had joined three years before), and that he opposed the Vietnam war on a religious and moral level. As he put it in less-than-poetic fashion in March of 1966, according to the Huffington Post, " ... I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."

Muhammad Ali's attitude to the Vietnam War

Ali did, therefore, have a quarrel with being called up for the army, and his refusal proved costly in more ways than one. His public image took a great hit, Huffington Post goes on, and his vocal objections proved controversial. In June of 1967, Biography adds, he faced a five-year jail sentence for his refusal, and instead spent four of those years campaigning against the war until the charges against him were dropped.

While lacking a license to box, Ali instead focused on his activism. In a May 1970 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show (via The Dick Cavett Show on YouTube), he spoke of the crucial work he'd been doing. "I was in Pittsburgh ... yesterday ... toured about ... three black high schools in a day encouraging the youth," Ali said. "A lot of gang wars going on ... the principals mentioned that with the things that I have done and the sacrifices I have made, I'm ... one of the few people that they might listen to. So I went, and they did listen."

This crucial work is just one thing that Ali did to raise the profile of, and directly support, the welfare of a whole generation (and beyond). In a distinctly bizarre incident, he recorded an album about the horrors of tooth decay, encouraging children to brush regularly and thoroughly. Yes, it did really happen.

A very surprising Grammy nomination

The illustrious music magazine Rolling Stone, needless to say, has covered decades' worth of the most treasured albums ever released. It has also, intriguingly, covered Ali's bizarre record, "The Adventures of Ali and His Gang Vs. Mr. Tooth Decay." According to the outlet, this album dropped in 1976, a concept album that sees Ali outline the dangers of candy and ice cream, suggest the best approach to oral hygiene, and be otherwise utterly educational and saccharine sweet.

In the album, Ali meets a group of children on a summer break, tempted by the sweet, cold, and sugary treats that tend to accompany that time of year. He tells them (per Islamic Memories on YouTube), "Now listen, this is very important. This is not just a summer project ... Mr. Tooth Decay can do, and has done, a lot of damage and it will be a continuous fight, constantly, all the way down the line."The road to oral hygiene is not an easy one, it seems, but any excuse to "fight" alongside the legendary Ali is enough to convince the children involved.

Along the way, Ali's "gang" chimes in with super solid advice like (per Islamic Memories on YouTube), " ...most important, whatever you eat, you should brush your teeth right after every meal." In the end, Ali out-boxes his foe (a development everyone surely saw coming). Per History, the album was nominated for a 1967 Grammy for best recording for children.