Monday, August 11, 2008

ISAAC HAYES 1942-2008

It’s truly been a sad weekend. Isaac Hayes was found dead Sunday in his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 65. Black Moses, Chef, the Duke of New York, Truck Turner-- however you knew him, there’s a new hole in the soul left by his passing. I wouldn’t see the movie Shaft uncut until I was out of high school, but, by God, I knew the music by the time I was 12. I had Hayes’ double album not long after it came out, and I thrilled to see his outsized personage, a vision in gold chains, marching to the stage to accept his Best Song Oscar in the spring of 1972. This album, with its moody horns and insistent funk, with highlights like “No Name Bar” and the ecstatic undulation of the 19-minute “Do Your Thing” capping all of side four, was my entry into the world of blaxploitation long before I ever saw any of the movies. Hayes’ score isn’t the great achievement of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, but it has its own edgy brilliance, as did Hayes as a performer-writer-singer. As he leaves us, I’d like to remember him from the Wattstax movie, performing his version of Soulsville featured on the Shaft soundtrack. Rest in peace, big man.

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