In Memoriam: Isaac Hayes

Written by Film, Music, Television

Many miles have I traveled since I first knowingly encountered the music of Isaac Hayes, so I hope you’ll forgive me if my memory is a bit hazy, but I’ve got it narrowed down to one of two moments: either it was when I received a sampler for Rhino Records’ awesome Soul Hits of the ’70s: Didn’t It Blow Your Mind! series, or it was when I watched the classic “Simpsons” episode, “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish.”

Whichever of these methods served as the introduction, however, the song remained the same.

“Theme From Shaft:

That song was a bad mother…

(Pause for appropriate response from Popdose readership)

But I’m talkin’ ’bout “Theme From Shaft“!

(Pause for appropriate response from Popdose readership)

Of course you can dig it. It’s one of the greatest songs in motion picture soundtrack history, and it affected me so profoundly that I owned a Shaft T-shirt before I ever saw the movie. Damn, I loved that song…and, damn, I’m gonna miss Isaac Hayes.

In recent years, I came to enjoy Mr. Hayes’ acting work as well…and, no, kids, I’m not just talking about his time spent as Chef on “South Park,” although I can’t deny that that material was absolutely hilarious. (The folks in the UK are notorious for putting novelty hits onto their charts, but, hell, I would’ve bought the single for “Chocolate Salty Balls,” too, if I’d lived there.) Once “The Rockford Files” started coming out on DVD, I discovered Hayes’ role of Gandolph “Gandy” Fitch, who did time with Jim Rockford back in their jailbird days; there was something about Hayes’s delivery when he referred to James Garner’s character as “Rockfish” that never failed to make me laugh. Hayes was also great as The Duke in “Escape from New York,” and as a sci-fi geek, I enjoyed his guest-star roles on “Sliders” and “Stargate: SG-1” as well. I must admit that I’ve still never seen “Truck Turner,” but with a poster like this one, it’s clear that I’ll have to track it down and check it out post haste:

Ultimately, though, it’s still Isaac Hayes’ music that I’ll miss the most, whether it’s his solo material, his soundtrack work (even beyond Shaft, he was still doing classic material like “Hung Up on My Baby,” from Three Tough Guys), the classic Stax songs he cowrote with David Porter (“B-A-B-Y,” “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Coming”), the song he sang with David Porter (here’s the shout-out for “Ain’t That Loving You“), or his covers of other people’s material that he put his own personal stamp on…like, say, the Bacharach / David composition, “Walk On By.”

And as long as we’re talking about covers, I wanted to offer up this YouTube video that I found in the midst of my mourning: Mr. Hayes singing Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Make no mistake about it: the man’s pipes were smoooooooooth.

I said it a moment ago, and I’ll say it again: damn, I’m gonna miss Isaac Hayes.

Farewell to you, Black Moses, and know that whether it’s “Theme From Shaft” or “Chocolate Salty Balls,” your musical legacy will go on for many years to come.