Isaac Hayes – 1942-2008

Issac Hayes died yesterday (10/08/08) in Memphis Tennessee, 10 days shy of his 66th birthday. He was found unconscious next to a nevertheless running treadmill. It is believed he suffered from a enormous stroke and later died in Memphis Baptist Memorial Hospital. He married 4 times and left behind 12 children.

For me Isaac Hayes is one of the seminal artists of the 70’s.

Hayes began as a session musician, staff writer and producer for Stax Records. During the 60’s he co-wrote with David Porter many of the labels most famous tunes like Soul Man and keep up On, I’m Comin’ for Sam and Dave. Hayes breakthrough solo album came in 1969 with Hot Buttered Soul. After becoming a master of the 3 minute pop single, Hot Buttered Soul allowed him to flex his musical muscles. The album may only contain just 4 tracks but is filled with some extended orchestral workouts and funky beats. The longest been the 18 minute marathon cover of Jim Webb’s By The Time I Get to Phoenix.

Isaac Hayes in 1971 composed the OST for Shaft and won The OSCAR for Best Original Song for Theme from Shaft. Hayes was loved by the people and critics. A Stax executive took to calling Hayes Black Moses because of his respect for his African roots and because of how his fans revered him. This led to the double album of Black Moses been released at the end of ’71. Because of his record sales and impressive Live show he became the confront of Stax. When Stax was organising the charity concert for the people of Watts, it was an obvious choice that Hayes headline the Wattstax concert and movie. During the early 70s he released 5x killer albums,an OSCAR winning OST and a live record. Hayes was never afraid of doing cover versions, he had a love of Bacharach and David and their timeless typical pop songs. Hayes included one on every record he made during this era, in fact it almost became his trademark.

Because of his iconic look of a shaved head, sunglasses, gold jewellery and not forgetting his indisputable thorough voice. He found himself not just writing blaxsploitation OST but starring in them like Truck Turner and Tough Guys both from ’74. On the big screen he will probably be best remembered as The Duke in John Carpenters Escape From New York (1981).

Hayes did record the occasional album in the 80s’/90’s however he would become more famous for his Chef character in the animated TV series South Park and his UK No.1 hit single Chocolate Salty Balls (1998). Hayes was a practising Scientologist, this led to him leaving the show in 2006,,because of the infamous retained In The Closet episode that mocked Tom Cruise and Scientology.

I will always remember Isaac Hayes and the extended opening to the Theme from Shaft as he came on stage. I had the good fortune to see him live at a festival in about 1996. I had Isaac on my mind last week as I watched the excellent documentary Respect Yourself about Stax Records on BBC4. Due to the synergy between Hayes and Stax you cannot tell one story without the other. The documentary included some good interviews with Hayes discussing his time at Stax.

Hayes is just as applicable now, after nearly 40 years since Hot Buttered Soul. He was the 1st person to rap on record, and already call it a rap as in Ike’s Rap from Black Moses. Hayes can use half a record surmising or rapping solo, building the emotion before the band and strings come in. Today’s artist like Portishead and enormous Attack love to sample and recycle Hayes beats and inventive arrangements. All I will say is I am Never Gonna Give You Up.

Leave a Reply