Trying To Get To You

Monday, August 11, 2008

Issac Hayes: The Coolest

Isaac Hayes had the coolest voice I’ve ever heard - deep, sexy, velvety, totally commanding and thoroughly vulnerable. It was imposing as well; he may have sung about the bad motherfucker that was John Shaft, but I always thought of him as the truly bad mofo. After all, he was real and Shaft was fiction.

But beyond the wonder of his voice (and his sublime 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul), I’m most grateful to Isaac Hayes for the incredible soul classics he wrote with his songwriting partner, David Porter. “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “Soul Man,” “I Thank You,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” (one of the most beautiful love songs ever), “B-A-B-Y” and more. These weren’t simply great soul songs – they were incredible songs, period, worthy of the songwriting teams that Hayes lionized, like Holland-Dozier-Holland and Bacharach-David.

Isaac was obviously a key figure in the history of soul. After Otis Redding’s death in late 1967, he took the Stax sound into a lusher, more orchestral direction, adding hints of jazz and a new sophistication. But it was still soul – just put on “Walk On By” (from Hot Buttered Soul) and you can hear his brilliance as a producer and arranger, taking the Dionne Warwick hit (written by Bacharach/David) and turning it into something darker and richer.

I only saw him once, this past June in Prospect Park. He was obviously tired, having been slowed down by a recent stroke. But the voice was still there, in command, reminding me of a white haired prophet from the Old Testament. The world seems a little less cool without him. Farewell Isaac – you’ve earned your rest.

Buy Isaac Hayes at the Amazon MP3 Store

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