Richard Dedeaux departs at 73; member of Watts Prophets spoken-word group
The Watts Prophets formed in L.A. after the 1965 riots. Their improvisational word riffs are considered an early form of hip-hop.
The Watts Prophets performing group, formed by three young poets in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots, was known for hard-edged commentary. But perhaps the most feisty of the trio was Richard Dedeaux, who once challenged Muhammad Ali to a poetry fight.
"We were going to a reception after a performance at an event at the L.A. Convention Center, walking behind Muhammad Ali and his entourage," said another member of the group, Amde Hamilton. Dedeaux ran up to the famed boxer and sometime poet and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Richard said, ‘Hey man, you are the greatest fighter in the world, I’ll give you that. But you keep saying you are the greatest poet, and that’s not right. We’re the greatest poets,’" Hamilton said.
With a crowd watching in a hotel lobby, they faced off — Ali did a poem, and the Watts Prophets answered with a medley of poems, punctuated by their improvisational word riffs that music historians now consider a forerunner of hip-hop.
Ali threw in the towel, admitting that when it came to poetry, he had been defeated.
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