Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes; The Shaft, the Chef & a King

~ 1942-2008 ~

Isaac Hayes, a fellow BMI member, has always been a favorite entertainer of mine, as well as a person I admired with great respect. Entertainment legend Isaac Hayes has died at the age of 65. It may not have been a tragic accident that took the life of the latest celeb to cross over, but it was indeed a tragedy.

Having reached near Pop Culture deity status from his success with works such as Hot Buttered Soul and The Shaft movie soundtrack, Isaac Hayes was a soul singer, songwriter, musician and producer for over forty years in America. He was a key player in the birth of 1960's Southern Soul music, and gave us now classic songs such as Soul Man. Hayes' deep sexy voice later became THE sound of "gettin' it on", and only Barry White may have been more well known for putting the groove in smooth seduction.

In 1997 Isaac Hayes became the voice of beloved "South Park" character, Jerome "Chef" McElroy. Chef handed out lunch trays at South Park Elementary School, and had befriended the group of children who are the main characters on the show. Chef dished up more than food though, offering wisdom through song, served with a side of sex; a flash back, not throw back, of the open lifestyle of the 1970's. The character went a little like this ... create a stereotype of a white dude, then picture what that white dudes stereotypical imagining of a hip black guy would be and there's Chef! Isaac Hayes was good natured about playing the role, for the most part, though it often times seemed to be a parody of himself. Eventually his patience ran out when his Scientologist views clashed with the show. In 2005 South Park created a thinly disguised satire of Scientologists in its 10th season premiere on Comedy Central. Hayes left the show and continued with his work in other areas of his life.

A lesser known fact about Hayes is that he was also true 'resident royalty' for more than a decade. He was an actual coronated King! In the western Africa Ada coastal district of Ghana he was a member of the Royal Family. According to the Official Isaac Hayes website a "instead of a palace, he built an 8,000 square foot educational facility through his Isaac Hayes Foundation (IHF). He is most certainly the only King on earth with an Oscar, Grammy awards"!

In addition to his music and television careers, Isaac Hayes was also well known for his concern with literacy. He and Lisa Marie Presley, a lifelong friend and fellow Scientologist, established a mission for the Central Library in Memphis in their hometown of Memphis. The mission now houses a LEAP center (Learning Education Ability Program), "for kids after school to learn how to study, to learn how to read and write." The IHF continues to partner with other nonprofit organizations to support global causes that serve community needs, actively promoting celebrity benefit concerts (like the Jam For Literacy at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles), Literacy Links 2000 (a middle school program in Memphis), and the Crusaders, a volunteer team of exhibition basketball players from all over the country who put on benefit shows for various causes.

In the spring 2003, one year after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Isaac Hayes made a celebrated move back to his birthplace in Tennessee, where his body was found laying on the floor next to a treadmill five years later... today. A man may not do all that he is able to do within his lifetime, but a man who does all that he can with the life he is given graces us with his efforts.

-- artist Tree

*Photograph credits unknown.

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