Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes R.I.P.

What can you say about the news that soul music legend Isaac Hayes has passed away? There’s not really much you can say except that the man was an innovator and a genius; up there with the best of them, like James Brown, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. You have to admire a man who began his life in poverty, picking cotton as a child, living with his grandparents after the death of his mother and father. He earned his high school diploma at the age of twenty and taught himself to play the piano, organ, sax and flute. Then he embarked on an illustrious music career that defined soul music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as he developed a lush, symphonic type of soul sound that paid homage to song writers like Bacarach and David — in fact Hayes covered several of their songs, turning then into lengthy marathons of rich orchestration and dramatic arrangements.

It could also be said that his music influenced disco and producers like Gamble and Huff, who developed the string drenched Philadelphia sound, which many see as the first stirrings of the genre. His song “I Can’t Turn Around,” was a huge hit on the Chicago club scene in ‘70s and early ‘80s and was reinterpreted as “Love Can’t Turn Around.” by Chicago dj, Farley Jackmaster Funk, an 1986 UK top twenty hit, which announced the arrival of house music in the European mainstream.

We will never forget Hayes’s music for the blaxploitation classic Shaft, or his cover versions of “Walk On By,” and the Glen Campbell standard, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.” We will also never forget his role as the voice for the character Chef in the animated, comedy series South Park. To say he was a man of many talents is an understatement, as he seemed to excel at everything he turned his hand to; musical instruments, song writing, singing and acting.

In a time when soul music has almost seemed to disappear, replaced by bubble gum, top 40 r&b or urban adult contemporary (whatever that means), we can only hope that in some future time when our music is not ruined by accountants and talentless middleman, that someone will discover the work of Isaac Hayes and create a new era of soul music, a lush, futuristic and beautiful invocation of all that has come before and a manifesto for what will follow. With that thought in mind let’s be thankful for all the great music the man gave us, the beautiful, gospel inflected and sometimes tortured songs, which defined Southern Soul and the Stax label.


1 comment:

leviticus33 said...

I remember meeting him at his record release party at 330 Ritch st SF.
I was casually leaning on the baby grand they had there at the time, when he sauntered up to the piano and asked me to lift the lid on it.
He then sat down to play "By the time I get to Pheonix". Needless to say I was in complete awe and just stayed there leaning on the piano with the black moses himself serenading me.
Rest in peace Isaac you will be missed.