SHOOK UP THE WORLD (for Muhammad Ali)

by Joe Henry

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Dear friends,

Two weeks ago I wrote a new song meditating on the life, recent death, and enduring legacy of Muhammad Ali: a brazenly courageous ambassador of peace and self-possession in my lifetime.

Days later, on the coattails of a wrapped project, I found myself in a studio in Hollywood with time to spare, surrounded by my son and band of brothers; and I seized the opportunity— both recording and mixing this song over the course of a few hours.

Observing an impulse of immediacy, and in the spirit of deep gratitude, I offer the song here and now.

Meet me at this juncture if you will, and play it loud if you do: as the man himself exemplified, this is not the time for demurring half-measures.

Joe Henry

All proceeds going to support the educational programming at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.


Take this hammer and give it to my captain,
say for me I’m gone
far from here and any valley
his train may crawl upon;
I’ve gone out on the mountain
just to swallow up the sun
for all undone—
oh, I shook up the world

Every battle, every cry is our story
and this canvas but its frame
for any who might dance and weave
their own from deep inside the game;
for any now who might trade blows
with our ever-lasting shame
for what remains—
and for all who shook up the world

Come see me now: I'm fallen and unbroken,
come speak my name aloud,
pull me like a thread and find the wild
and still unbending crowd;
the word of God is music,
and His every dream allowed
and with us now:
all who shook up the world

oh, I shook up the world,
I shook up the world
I shook up the world…


released August 8, 2016
Written, performed and produced by Joe Henry

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ryan Freeland at
United Recording, Studio B, Hollywood, CA;
13 July, 2016

Engineering assistance provided by Monique Evelyn

JH – Vocals and Acoustic Guitar
Jay Bellerose – Drums and Percussion
David Piltch – Electric Bass
Patrick Warren – Piano
Adam Levy – Electric Guitar
Levon Henry – Soprano Saxophone



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Joe Henry Los Angeles, California

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