Saturday, August 10, 2013

Remembering Isaac Hayes August 20, 1942 - August 10, 2008

A hobby of mine growing up was collecting 45 records and albums of my favorite solo performers and rock groups.  One of those albums I enjoyed the most was called "Hot Buttered Soul" that was recorded by soul artist Isaac Hayes.

Hayes was not only a pioneer in R&B music but was also a "huge" humanitarian.  He used his celebrity to support needed efforts for civil rights and founded the Isaac Hayes Foundation that built an 8000 square foot school in Ghana.  Through his foundation, he focused his efforts on Education and literacy, music, nutrition. His mission was to build self esteem to kids who were underprivileged.  He once said "Education is the best way I know to help people not only survive but thrive in their communities.  An educated person can be so much more than he was-more productive, more independent, a more ethical human being.

Isaac Hayes was born in the rural poverty of a sharecropper's family in Covington, Tennessee.  He was orphaned during his childhood and he and his sister were raised by their maternal grandparents.  When Hayes was 7, his family moved to Memphis and soon thereafter his grandpa died.  He took on any kind of work he could to support his family including picking cotton, shining shoes, and delivering groceries.  He always claimed that his grandmother was the most influential person in his life and during difficult times his grandmother would tell him to just" keep on living".  She was his first teacher and instilled in him a love for books and learning.  He also gives credit to his school teachers who looked after him and made sure that he was working to his full potential.

He took part in a high school talent show that instilled in him an interest in music.  After winning the show, it changed his life.  He turned down vocal music scholarships from seven colleges and continued to practice the piano and soon landed a gig with the bandleader, Floyd Newman, a musician for Stax Records.  Newman used Isaac on a solo album and that was the beginning of his career.  Hayes began to write music with David Porter and co-wrote 200 songs including Sam & Dave's Hold On! I'm Comin" and the Grammy winning "Soul Man"Their music became known as the Memphis Sound.  He would record the album mentioned above called "Hot Buttered Soul" and that album reached Platinum and stayed on the charts for 81 weeks. He went on to influence young musicians and during the summer of 1971, he recorded the first album in the history of a black artist to reach #1 on both the pop and the R&B charts.  The album was named "Shaft" and as many remember, the album turned into a movie and the album became the #3 R&B album of the entire decade of the 70's.  Hayes became the first African American composer to win the Oscar for Best Musical Score.

Isaac Hayes went on to release more than a dozen hit albums and launched an acting career.  He appeared in more than a dozen feature films and his voice was used as "Chef" in Comedy Central's South Park. He appeared in several television shows including "The Rockford Files" "The A Team" and "Miami Vice" He reached his peak in 2002 by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Isaac Hayes died on August 10, 2008 after being found unresponsive in his home.  In prior years, he had suffered a series of strokes.  He died ten days before his 66th birthday.

Hayes funeral
Hayes funeral program
His life was celebrated on two days back to back.  The first service was private in order to accommodate several celebrities who had flown into town.  Isaac Hayes was a scientologist and the first funeral included many of its members including Tom Cruise, Kelly Preston and Chick Corea.  The service also included Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes.  The second service (program pictured) speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, David Porter and Kelly Preston (John Travolta's wife).  The program quotes Hayes as saying "At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own lives.  If anything happens to us, don't blame somebody else.  Backtrack and look at what you did to contribute to that.  You also contribute to your successes.  Once you learn that, you're on your way."

Isaac Hayes was laid to rest in Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.  His grave is covered by a huge bronze plaque that includes scenes from Hayes life in music and film.


Hayes resting place


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