Lex Neon on Isaac Hayes

Can you dig it?  Right on.

For as long as I can remember, there has always been Isaac Hayes.  His music, bald head, gold chains, sunglasses and deep, rich, bass voice are all woven into the tapestry of my past.  He was one of the main architects for southern rhythm and blues and soul music during the late 60s and into the 70s.  Isaac’s Hot Buttered Soul album hung on the wall of the family music room.  To this day, I still remember that spooky feeling of “desperate inner pain” that pulsates from the intro of his version of “Walk On By.”  Let’s not forget that sweet, soulful version of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.”

Let us not forget that Isaac’s also the guy who wrote and produced some of the most endearing songs of the 60s.  Along with his writing partner, David Porter, Isaac wrote songs like “Soul Man,” “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” and “Hold On, I’m Coming.”

By the time he delivered his Black Moses album in ’71, he had his finger on the pulse.  Every guy on my block wanted to be him, and all of the ladies wanted to be with him.  In my house, Isaac Hayes was preferred over Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond.

Above all, I remember how great the “(Theme from) Shaft” sounded on my tiny transistor radio.  In the early 70’s, “Shaft” sounded like no other Top 10 pop song on the radio.  Soulful strings, funky backbeat, and a wicked wah-wah guitar gave this song something for everyone to enjoy.  And of course, there is the low, bass voice that tells you a bit about the subject of the song:

Who’s the black private dick
That’s a sex machine to all the chicks?
Shaft!
(Ya damn right!)

Who is the man that would risk his neck
For his brother man?
Shaft!
(Can you dig it?)

Who’s the cat that won’t cop out
When there’s danger all about?
Shaft!
(Right On!)

They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother
(Shut yo’ mouth!
I’m talkin’ ’bout Shaft.
(Then we can dig it!)

He’s a complicated man
But no one understands him but his woman
John Shaft!
With this song, Isaac won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and two Grammy Awards.  In fact, the same year he won the two Grammys for “Shaft,” he won an additional Grammy for his work on Black Moses.  He was a composer, arranger, and producer extraordinaire.

Some may remember him as the voice of “Chef” from South Park.  Others may recall that he was a Scientologist. I’ll always recall the unique and excellent music he left us.  Happy birthday, Issac.  We love you and miss you, and will never forget you.

Yes, we can dig it.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

Please note that Hot Buttered Soul was originally released in August 1969.

Currently listening :
Hot Buttered Soul
By Isaac Hayes
Release date: 1990-10-25
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~ by Poppermost on September 2, 2008.

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