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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Music News: Soul Superstar Isaac Hayes Dies

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

Isaac Hayes, the biggest star of latter-day Stax records and a pioneer of the smooth string-filled soul that would mutate into disco, has died. Hayes also found a second life on film and television, most memorably voicing Chef on TV's South Park - a role that brought him to the attention of a whole new generation of fans. His belief in Scientology led him to walk away from the ribald show in protest of an episode ridiculing the the L. Ron Hubbard founded group.

Hayes co-wrote several of the hit 60s singles of Memphis groundbreaking Stax records including "Soul Man' - made famous by Sam & Dave. His own music took a cue from white psychedelia, stretching out song lengths and slowing down tempos while his rich baritone purred and often spoke lengthy introductions. Though disco would speed tempos in the other direction, the long songs and thick arrangements were clearly ingredients and Hayes loverman style would be emulated most famously by Barry White.

Hayes sense of style was unparalleled - proudly bald and black, his image was as important as his music.

Hayes biggest hit was the smash "Theme from Shaft", from the film of the same name starring Richard Roundtree. The cross-format number one hit not only cemented Hayes stardom but also led to a string of soul and r & b singers like James Brown and Marvin Gaye turning to so-called "blaxploitation" flick soundtracks as sources of hits. The song won Hayes both a Grammy and an Academy Award.

As an actor in addition to South Park on television he had memorable roles in the South Park film, in John Carpenter's Escape From New York driving a Cadillac with chandeliers on its fenders and in the blaxploitation satire I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.

His best albums include the aforementioned Shaft, the double LP Black Moses, and teh fantastic 1969 Hot Buttered Soul which contains a definite version of Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By".

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