Feature | Highlight 2 | Issue | Long read | Premium | Jan 21 2020

Lyrics of Fury: Exploring the enduring relationship between the sweet science and songwriting

To investigate why artists are drawn to boxing, Elliot Worsell speaks to Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon), Ken Casey (Dropkick Murphys), and poet Declan Ryan.
Greyscale image of a boxer having a go at the punching bag  |  Young man boxing

WHEN Phil Shevack isn’t standing outside shooing away gangbangers trying to sling drugs on the doorstep of his boxing gym, he is fielding calls from music managers and poetry curators eager to figure a way to get their talent inside. It’s quite the paradox. A barking dog scares off the dealers; dealers scare off the tourists.

As all this goes on, street kids from Paterson, New Jersey continue their business inside. They hit bags. They hit each other. They construct the kind of scenes men and women want to ogle and admire from afar in the hope of one day writing or singing about them. They endure pain on their behalf.

“They had a poetry session not long ago where all the great poets in the country gathered in the gym,” Shevack, owner of Ike and Randy’s Boxing Gym, explained. “Also, Jon Bon Jovi wanted to do part of a music video here. It got cancelled. He wanted off-duty cops to be his protectors. He wanted to pay them to be his security. They said, ‘No way in hell. It’s going to cause problems out there.’