STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
During the “Fight of the Century” of March 8, 1971 boxer Joe Frazier successfully defended his title against a recently-reinstated Muhammed Ali at Madison Square Garden.
Forty-six years to the date, Philly pop singer Doreen Taylor released the single “Unstoppable,” a song she wrote as a tribute to Frazier.
In a phone interview, Taylor talked about how she befriended the Philadelphian, 1964 Olympic gold medalist and 1970-1973 heavyweight champion after a chance encounter in 2007, as she was entering a meeting and Frazier was leaving a meeting. “I knew him from ‘The Simpsons’ and a question on ‘Jeopardy.’ He just loved music so much. When he found out what I did, he turned right around. That was his passion — he loved performing, he loved singing,” she said.
In the late 1970s, during his first retirement from boxing, Frazier formed a soul/funk band called Joe Frazier and the Knockouts.
“Smokin’ Joe,” as he was sometimes called, invited Taylor and her manager to a History Channel premiere screening for a documentary on the mob that was happening that night across town. From that point, Frazier was like her second father, Taylor said.
Before he passed away from complications from liver cancer in 2011, Frazier attended many of Taylor’s shows. Taylor also performed with him on stage at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. She was a guest performer at Frazier’s Sportsbox event at Harrah’s A.C., where the guests of honor included Bobby Rydell, Tonya Harding and Joe Piscopo.
“Everybody knows him as a fighter … but very few people know how he was as a person. He was always paying it forward,” said Taylor, who wrote “Unstoppable” after hearing the eulogy at Frazier’s funeral about a fighter’s will to get up, no matter how many times he is knocked down.
The video for “Unstoppable” premiered at the Main Line Art Center on the 46th anniversary of the Fight of the Century. It includes dramatic footage from the historic boxing match. Of the scenes where she is shown punching a training bag, Taylor said: “I had cuts on my hands. I got a new-found respect for fighters and athletes. I wanted to give up; I hadn’t eaten, I was exhausted. For me to embody the spirit of the fighter — I felt (Frazier’s) spirit was in the room with us.”
The song is on Taylor’s second album, “Happily Ever After,” which is available on iTunes, Amazon and all other digital music sites. She said her performance schedule is temporarily on hold because she’s busy developing an off-Broadway show based on the songs of “Happily Ever After.”
Taylor, who holds degrees in opera and vocal performance, had a hit on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart in 2015 with “Toy.” Her music has since been featured on CBS, NBC, Fox News, CW Network and Lifetime.
Check out www.doreentaylormusic.com.