Friday, March 21, 2014

Do You Like Good Music?

I'm talking about a man who dropped out of high school (and later was graduated at age 21), a man who became a songwriter, performer, arranger, singer, actor, voiceover actor and radio host, and then left far too soon.

I'm talking about Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr.  As a songwriter, he and his partner David Porter came up with great stuff for Sam and Dave, such as "Hold On, I'm Comin'", "When Something is Wrong with My Baby", "Soul Man" and  "I Thank You". He first came to the attention of pop fans with the theme song from the movie "Shaft" in 1971. But back up a couple of years to 1969, when his album "Hot Buttered Soul" came out, with a long version of "Walk On By," the Burt Bacharach / Hal David song on which Dionne Warwick had the first hit.  I can't hear this without remembering WWIN playing it on their overnight show as I labored at the A&P, stocking shelves with peanut butter, macaroni and floor wax.   And if you liked Dionne's version of "I Just Don't Know What To Do (With Myself)," check out his take on it and see if it doesn't move you a little bit more!

And I don't know what you had planned for the next 18 minutes and 40 seconds, but you could do a lot worse than to spend it listening to Isaac make you forget that Glen Campbell also recorded "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." Then you can also compare his "Close To You" to the Carpenters'.

Isaac's Baltimore connection was that he was one of the owners of the Memphis Sounds basketball team which was moved to Baltimore in 1975, but folded before their season even began.  He did better with other things.

Other things such as...acting.  He was the newspaper photographer Angel Dupree in "It Could Happen To You," the 1994 movie with Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda.  He played an Isaac Hayes impersonator in an episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and was Chef for many years on "South Park."

And, he was a DJ/radio host on WRKS in New York in the late 90's.

If you ever find yourself in Tennessee, where Isaac was born in 1942, look for a section of Interstate 40 known as the "Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway".   His songs have generated more than 12 million plays on the radio, and when you watch "The Blues Brothers" or listen to any disco, hip hop or rap music, you hear Isaac Hayes all over the place.  He passed away in 2008, the victim of recurrent strokes, but while he was on the earth, he made the most of his talents, and that's about as much as we can all hope to do.

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