Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm talkin 'bout Isaac Hayes (Shut Yo' Mouth!)

The Leopard is sure that in the coming weeks there will be dozens of articles, obits and tributes about the original Black Moses, Isaac Hayes,  flooding the media. There probably won't be anything that The Leopard can contribute in that area that won't already be covered about the fruitful musical life of the man who was the very personification of soul.

So I can only offer a youthful rumination.  The first time I remember seeing Hayes' image, it was in the basement at my aunt's house. My aunt and uncle were the hippest folks in my family and they always had the latest records. I used to enjoy just looking at the album covers: Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and The Pips. I especially loved The Ohio Players covers, like the one for the album called Fire featuring a model with nothing on but a fire chief hat. Up until that time, it was the closest thing I'd come to an actual Playboy magazine.

Then there was Isaac Hayes. My aunt and uncle must have been big fans because they seemed to have all his records.  I remember the Black Moses album that folded out into a crucifix. But my favorite was Hot Buttered Soul. Of course, I had no idea what that meant, but I loved the cover image, looking down on Hayes's bald head. I used to stare at the cover while listening to the groovy, soulful sound of his voice.  I looked at it so much that I remember thinking if it's called Hot Buttered Soul, maybe they should have put a pat of butter melting on his head--pretty silly.

The music was different than anything I'd ever heard before--all the songs were abnormally long, sometimes as much as 20 minutes, a whole album side--and had fascinating spoken introductions recited in Hayes's trademark gravelly baritone.

Shaft was everywhere on the radio in 1971.  Everyone I knew had a copy of the album or the single. The Theme From Shaft is probably one of the most recognizable pieces of music ever written.  It is unforgettable. 

Kinda like the man himself.

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