August 10, 2008

HE'S A DEAD MUTHA... (SHUT YO MOUF) [profanity alert]:

Isaac Hayes, Pioneering Singer, Is Dead at 65 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/10/08)

In the early 1970s, Hayes laid the groundwork for disco, for what became known as urban-contemporary music and for romantic crooners like Barry White. And he was 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, 65, a Creator of ’70s Soul Style, Dies (BEN SISARIO, 8/11/08, NY Times)
With his lascivious bass-baritone and flamboyant wardrobe, Mr. Hayes developed a musical persona that was an embodiment of the hyper-masculine, street-savvy characters of the so-called blaxploitation films of the era. In his theme song to Gordon Parks’s “Shaft” from 1971, the title character is summed up in a line that has become a classic of kitsch: “Who’s a black private dick/Who’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” [...]

Isaac Hayes was born Aug. 20, 1942, in a tin shack in rural Covington, Tenn., to a mother who died early and a father who left home. He was raised largely by his grandparents, and worked in cotton fields while going to school. He began playing in local bands, and by early 1964, when he was 21, he was working as a backup musician for Stax. His first session was with Otis Redding.

Soon he began writing songs with David Porter, and their music — numbers like “Soul Man” and Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” for Sam and Dave, and “B-A-B-Y” for Carla Thomas — came to embody the Stax aesthetic. It was tight, catchy pop, but full of sweat and grit, a proudly unpolished Southern alternative to Motown.

By the late 1960s Mr. Hayes was stepping out as a solo artist, and his reputation grew as much for his dress as for his music. The cover of his 1969 album, “Hot Buttered Soul,” pictured him in customary style: shaved head, dark shades, gold chains, bare chest. The album was similarly eccentric, consisting of just four songs, including lengthy, elaborate versions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” and Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” It also included spoken segments that he called raps, and the album became one of his biggest hits, reaching No. 8.

When he was approached to create the score to “Shaft,” one of the first blaxploitation films, Mr. Hayes said he also wanted the lead role. The part went to Richard Roundtree, but Mr. Hayes recorded the music anyway. It was done in four days with several members of the Bar-Kays, one of the house bands at Stax.

With a cymbal pattern borrowed from Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” which Mr. Hayes had arranged, the song layered funk guitars, horns, woodwinds and strings, prefiguring disco. It became a No. 1 hit.

In 1971 he followed up the “Shaft” soundtrack with “Black Moses,” a double album that was another ambitious expansion of the vocabulary of soul music. In its original issue, the cover folded out to reveal a portrait of Mr. Hayes in crucifix form.

One of the great moments in television history was Dr. Ruth interviewing him about why the ladies love him so. She was vibrating like a tuning fork.

And, of course, the opening of Shaft remains the most thrilling in the movies, not just because Richard Roundtree is so freakin' cool, but because of the pulsing beat from Ike underneath the scene.

-WIKIPEDIA: Isaac Hayes
-Isaac Hayes (Rock Hall of Fame)
-Soul icon Isaac Hayes dies at 65 (BBC, 8/10/08)
-OBIT: Soul icon Isaac Hayes dies in Memphis at 65 (Dean Goodman, 8/10/08, Reuters)
-AUDIO: 'Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It?' (NPR, November 14, 2005)

Ed Gordon talks with soul music icon Isaac Hayes about his long career — he's been making music for nearly 40 years — his influence on hip-hop and the release of a collection of his now-legendary Stax Record tunes called Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 10, 2008 3:38 PM

He was the Duke of New York. A number 1.

Posted by: Patrick H at August 10, 2008 5:03 PM

With all due respect, I had no idea he was still alive. What happened to him after Shaft?

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 11, 2008 6:59 AM

He had a great recurring role in The Rockford Files as Gandolph Fitch. He used to call Rockford, "Rockfish." Great stuff.

Posted by: pchuck at August 11, 2008 9:23 AM

The Rockford Files? I had no clue he was on the show. But then I can barely remember the show. James Garner, right?

Posted by: Casey Abell at August 11, 2008 12:16 PM
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