Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes 1942-2008

Left: Isaac Hayes, from the WASHINGTON POST.


They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother!

Well, he really was.

Isaac Hayes dead at 65

ASSOCIATED PRESS • August 10, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose "Theme From Shaft" won both Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday afternoon after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. He was 65.

Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis an hour after he was found by a family member, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

With his muscular build, shiny head and sunglasses, Hayes cut a striking figure at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting Afros. His music, which came to be known as urban-contemporary, paved the way for disco as well as romantic crooners like Barry White.

And in his spoken-word introductions and interludes, Hayes was essentially rapping before there was rap. His career hit another high in 1997 when he became the voice of Chef, the sensible school cook and devoted ladies man on the animated TV show "South Park."

"Isaac Hayes embodies everything that's soul music," Collin Stanback, an A&R executive at Stax, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The first of his records I ever heard was called "Hot Buttered Soul", the name he later assigned his trio of female backup singers.

The album "Hot Buttered Soul" made Hayes a star in 1969. His shaven head, gold chains and sunglasses gave him a compelling visual image.

"Hot Buttered Soul" was groundbreaking in several ways: He sang in a "cool" style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers. He prefaced the song with "raps," and the numbers ran longer than three minutes with lush arrangements.

"Jocks would play it at night," Hayes recalled in a 1999 Associated Press interview. "They could go to the bathroom, they could get a sandwich, or whatever."

Left: SHAFT album cover.

Next came "Theme From Shaft," a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film "Shaft" starring Richard Roundtree.

"That was like the shot heard round the world," Hayes said in the 1999 interview.

At the Oscar ceremony in 1972, Hayes performed the song wearing an eye-popping amount of gold and received a standing ovation. TV Guide later chose it as No. 18 in its list of television's 25 most memorable moments. He won an Academy Award for the song and was nominated for another one for the score. The song and score also won him two Grammys.

"The rappers have gone in and created a lot of hit music based upon my influence," he said. "And they'll tell you if you ask."

Hayes was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
As a 14-year old, my favorite song from the SHAFT soundtrack was Ellie's Love Theme, a sweet, lovely piece of music I later taped (long after the vinyl wore out) and used as walking accompaniment, with my walkman and headphones. I listened to it for over 30 years. I have included it below.

At the risk of sounding ancient, can I pause to say I am still amazed you can find ANYTHING on the net? I was thrilled to find this old piece of music again! It's also wonderful to be able to share this private pleasure with all of you here. Just take a listen to the delicate beauty and elegant, early-70s cool of that composition.

A self-taught musician, he was hired in 1964 by Stax Records of Memphis as a backup pianist, working as a session musician for Otis Redding and others. He also played saxophone.

He began writing songs, establishing a songwriting partnership with David Porter, and in the 1960s they wrote such hits for Sam and Dave as "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Soul Man."

All this led to his recording contract.

In 1972, he won another Grammy for his album "Black Moses" and earned a nickname he reluctantly embraced. Hayes composed film scores for "Tough Guys" and "Truck Turner" besides "Shaft." He also did the song "Two Cool Guys" on the "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" movie soundtrack in 1996. Additionally, he was the voice of Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite" and had radio shows in New York City (1996 to 2002) and then in Memphis.

He was in several movies, including "It Could Happen to You" with Nicolas Cage, "Ninth Street" with Martin Sheen, "Reindeer Games" starring Ben Affleck and the blaxploitation parody "I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka."

Left: South Park character CHEF, from the Comedy Central network.

In the 1999 interview, Hayes described the South Park cook as "a person that speaks his mind; he's sensitive enough to care for children; he's wise enough to not be put into the 'wack' category like everybody else in town -- and he l-o-o-o-o-ves the ladies."

But Hayes angrily quit the show in 2006 after an episode mocked his Scientology religion.

"There is a place in this world for satire," he said. "but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs of others begins."

Co-creator creators Matt Stone responded that Hayes "has no problem -- and he's cashed plenty of checks -- with our show making fun of Christians." A subsequent episode of the show seemingly killed off the Chef character.

Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.

Hayes wanted to be a doctor, but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole's "Looking Back."

He held down various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting.
We'll miss you, Chef.

But mostly, I'll miss the ultra-cool cat who wrote/conducted/produced this:

Isaac Hayes - Ellie's Love Theme (SHAFT soundtrack)

Resquiat In Pace.


JoJo said...

Yeah I was bummed to hear that. And it just goes to show you, exercise, eat right, die anyway. Someone pass me some cake.

Also, have you ever seen him in "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka"? It was Keenan Ivory Wayans' first movie, in the late 80's and is chock full of Blaxpoitation stars and others. It's HILARIOUS.

screamin puma said...

2nd gr8 keyboard post in 3 days, D. just awesome. ty.

Daisy said...

You're welcome, SP!

And Jojo, never saw that one, but I am surprised the official obits didn't mention Isaac Hayes' famous baddie (named The Duke) in John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, which I've seen countless times and always find very entertaining.

JoJo said...

I'm still not sure how he got thru the song, "Chocolate Salty Balls" without laughing (in SP).

Don said...

Yeah, what a bumber. I remember a lot of blacks on campus (college) referring to him as Black Moses...everyone else too. I first bought him on 8-track tape. Long time ago...I'll surely always remember Black Moses!

annie said...

he was awesome. however, the conversion to scientology made me sad. that's just me though.

shadocat said...

Great post Daisy---I loved Isaac Hayes, his music, his performance as "Chef", everything. Have you heard there's a movie (don't know the title,sorry) yet to be released with Isaac and Bernie Mac in it? (Loved him too.) Weird, the two of them dying within hours of each other.

Lisa Harney said...

Sad. :(