Isaac Hayes is gone. And not to Phoenix, this time. It’s a hard goodbye for this listener. Inspired by the great artists who sampled him — Public Enemy on “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, Big Daddy Kane on “Smooth Operator”, The Jungle Brothers’ on “Behind the Bush”, Massive Attack on “One Love”, Compton’s Most Wanted on “The Hood Took Me Under”, The Geto Boys on “Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me”, etc. — I started seeking him out sometime in the early 90s, and his music became formative to my appreciation of soul music.
Hayes was the whole package. A writer of great songs, especially the early sixties when he and co-writer David Porter provided Sam and Dave with their two biggest hits, “Soul Man” and “(Hold on) I’m Coming.” A fine instrumentalist, especially on the keyboard. But first and foremost he was a composer, arranger and producer, notable for taking often relatively banal material and crafting soul masterpieces from it. And then there was his voice. Though never a singer of great nuance, he brought a form of high pathos to his love songs that imbued the emotions expressed with an epic sense, without ever losing that loving feeling.