Halcyon Days

Columns and reflections by Terry Britt

Archive for August 2008

Soul Grieving

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As an avowed and eternal fan of all things Stax, Sunday’s sad news of the death of Isaac Hayes hit particularly hard.

As I’m sitting here listening to some of Hayes’ recordings, I’m thinking of his vast influence on soul, R&B, even rap. Yet I will admit I was a latecomer to knowing much of Hayes’ own discography and the long list of songs he wrote or collaborated with partner David Porter during Stax Records’ heyday in the 60s and early 70s.

About six years ago, though, I bought the nine-disc set “The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume One” and were my ears ever opened, especially when it came to realizing just how many great songs in that collection were Hayes and Porter compositions.  Before that, I basically knew Hayes only as the man who recorded “Theme from Shaft” and wrote a couple of big hits for Sam and Dave.

A few months after that purchase, I picked up the second volume of Stax/Volt singles and gained a greater appreciation for Hayes’ own recordings, not to mention the oddness of his ascension from behind-the-scenes (albeit brilliant) songwriter to soul superstar.  While “Theme from Shaft” is and always will be a soul music history cornerstone, I found lots of Hayes’ material to like.  If pressed on the issue, I would have to say my personal favorite is his rendition of “The Look of Love,” a torch song best known as a No. 4 pop hit in 1968 for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66.  Hayes’ version is sweet, hot and absolutely haunting – in the way lovers understand well.

Few of us get the opportunity to reinvent or resurrect ourselves in the public eye once, much less twice.  When Stax went under and Hayes suffered major financial setbacks, he was not one to fade away, turning to film and television acting while continuing to record songs.  Eventually, a whole new generation got to know Isaac Hayes via his vocal talents for the character of Chef on the animated show “South Park.”

No one relishes the day you have to say goodbye to someone whose work and life you admire greatly, less so when it happens so unexpectedly.  Suffice to say, Isaac Hayes will be as unforgettable as his performance of “Theme from Shaft” at the 1972 Academy Awards, and his musical and songwriting talent changed the landscape of the American soul sound for the better.

Written by terrybritt

August 10, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Posted in music

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