I’ve been reading the goodbye tributes to Isaac Hayes. I lived in Memphis for a handful-plus years and have, since I was a teenager, loved Memphis music. Hi-Records has always been by far my favorite, but the Stax sound is really the only thing in Memphis that can compare. So, I read the tributes to Isaac Hayes in search of remembrance of his place in that history. But that’s not what you find.
What you find, for better or worse, is Isaac Hayes as composer of the Shaft soundtrack, so contributor to that certain look, style, and sound of the late-sixties, early-seventies. Jimi Izrael gives the best version of this at TheRoot.com, recalling the importance (albeit in a largely iconic pose) of Hayes in his own life…playing the theme from Shaft as he walked down the aisle to get married, even.
Great write-up. The template has been used in most of the remembrances.
But you can’t really get a sense of Isaac Hayes as an important songwriter, and that bothers me. You don’t have Stax records without Hayes’ songs. He wrote for Carla Thomas and Sam & Dave, for god’s sake, but that slips by as article after article talks about his role in South Park. There’s surely something to be said here about irony, racism, and racial representation, but I’ll pass on that for now – not quite in the mood, and it makes me sad.
I can’t say I’m surprised. The iconic rules, after all, so it seems pretty trite and lame to lament the loss of Isaac Hayes the creative master, the pop songwriter who’s matched by rare few for classics, hits, and just solid songs recorded and sung by the best. “Hold On, I’m Comin'” is as good as it gets in the mid-sixties. He and David Porter changed pop music, making hits that were soul music when r&b had taken over.
I remember that Isaac Hayes. You can say it is personal taste. I also think Hot Buttered Soul is a fabulous album, and he and Marvin Gaye put out the most interesting concept albums in the soul music genre I’ve ever heard. Strange combination. I’m not much for concept albums, but, hey, those two did it well.
The iconic will always trump artistry, I fear, until we live in a very different world. Isaac Hayes was both. No small feat. Download some Stax tunes he wrote with David Porter. It’s a bonus: in addition to appreciating Hayes-Porter as the best soul songwriting duo, you’ll remember why Sam & Dave are pretty hard to beat as singers and performers. Or why Carla Thomas is (sadly) so underappreciated outside Memphis (she’s still big there!) We all win, eh?
Mostly, rest in peace, Black Moses. Thanks for the songs. So many of them.