RIP – Isaac Hayes

Shaft himself has departed his earthly digs, at the age of 65 on August 10, 2008… Here’s some excerpts from a Time/CNN article:

But the biggest triumph for this self-described Black Moses had to be on April 10, 1972, when his Theme from Shaft won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

What’s extraordinary is that Theme from Shaft somehow beguiled the Bel Air senior citizens who constitute the Academy membership. Hayes, a newcomer to Hollywood movie scoring, was up against such former and future Oscar winners as Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini, Marvin Hamlisch and the Sherman Brothers. The award typically went to doyens of the classic-pop establishment, all of whom were white. For nearly two decades, the movie-music fraternity had fought the onslaught of rock and soul music through the simple expedient of ignoring it.

So when Hayes’ name was read out, you could practically hear the sound of mandibles detaching throughout the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, while back at Stax Records in Memphis there must have been astonished cheers. Hayes had become the first African American to win a music Oscar (or, indeed, an Oscar in any category except for acting). But that belated recognition was less a harbinger of enlightenment than a blip on the rainbow radar. No black musician would cop another Oscar until 1985, when Prince was honored for the score of Purple Rain.

In other endeavors, Hayes’ influence was more readily apparent. Born in Covington, Tenn., 40 miles northeast of Memphis, he was working in a meatpacking plant after college when one of his songs got him hired at Stax. There he played in the house band behind most of Otis Redding’s singles and found a songwriting partner in an insurance salesman named David Porter. They eventually composed some 200 songs and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 — the same year as the Sherman Brothers, whose Mary Poppins score was the spoonful of sugar to Hayes and Porter’s megadose of Viagra. (Hayes made it into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame on his own in 2002.)

Producing many of the Stax hits of the ’60s, Hayes and Porter helped define that studio’s sound, which dispensed with the pop craftsmanship of Stax’s main rival Motown Records and, taking inspiration from James Brown’s mid-’60s ravers, revved up the motor of testosterone. For Sam & Dave they wrote the hits Hold On, I’m Coming and Soul Man.

Those are some great hits in there, and I know many people didn’t know he was behind the Sam & Dave hits… In the words of Shaft – “Can ya dig it?” I can…

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