RIP Isaac

Daaaamn right

Hayes at SXSW 07
Hayes at SXSW 07 (by Gary Miller)

Take away the Shaft soundtrack and all of his solo albums and Isaac Hayes’ contribution to soul music would still be monumental. In collaboration with David Porter, Hayes penned and composed more than 200 songs for Stax Records. I love Sam & Dave, but that duo would be nothing without Hayes & Porter, who wrote mega-hits “Hold On, I'm Coming,” “Soul Man,” “I Thank You,” and a healthy portion of the pair’s entire catalog.

For such a prolific songwriter, many of Hayes’ best-known songs are not his own. Only one of the four extended tracks on his 1969 masterpiece, Hot Buttered Soul, is an original and 1971’s Black Moses is dominated by covers as well. But anyone who's listened to these albums knows Hayes never really covered songs. He transformed them. On “Walk On By,” Hayes freaks a pleasant three minute pop tune into an epic 12-minute opus. At the 5:12 mark, the crescendoing strings all but snap before the intoxicating wah-wah kicks in.

He didn't just sound different, he was different. In an era when either the processed 'do of JB or the Black Power afro of Angela Davis was en vogue, he rocked pink tights and a shiny bald head. There's a reason his performance was the grand finale for the epic 1972 Wattstax concert at the L.A. Coliseum. The liner notes from the soundtrack express it best:

“Isaac appeared as planned. And when Isaac arrives, the whole world knows it. Two Harley Davidsons rumbled through the main tunnel with lights flashing and sirens going full blast. People stood in the aisles screaming 'Black Moses' as he emerged in Academy Award splendor: a gold chain vest, shiny bald head, metallic orange pants with black and white fringed cuffs. Flamboyant, cool, haughty, and, without a doubt, the true Black sex-symbol-idol of the century."

Rest in peace, Ike!

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