Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes (1942-2008)

Isaac Hayes in 'Wattstax'

This sucks too.

Now comes word that Issac Hayes has died at the age of 65.

Besides helping put Stax on the R&B map with his experimental albums (Hot Buttered Soul) and songwriting work ("Soul Man" by Sam & Dave), Hayes also sang and wrote the Oscar-winning "Theme from Shaft" (the Shaft score is credited to Hayes, but much of it was actually done by J.J. Johnson and Johnny Allen) and starred in and scored the 1974 blaxploitation flicks Three Tough Guys and Truck Turner. He composed one of my favorite themes written for TV, the forgotten but funky theme from The Men, ABC's answer to The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie in the early '70s.

On the small screen, Hayes had a memorable recurring role on The Rockford Files as Gandy, an ex-con whose signature quirk was to still call Rockford by his prison nickname "Rockfish," and he provided the voice of Chef on South Park, before he quit under mysterious circumstances related to the show's gags about Scientology (Hayes was a member).

But Hayes' greatest piece of work--other than "Chocolate Salty Balls"--remains the "Theme from Shaft." Like the duel of Alessandro Alessandroni's harmonica and fuzztone guitar in Once Upon a Time in the West or the horn stabs during a John Barry (or David Arnold) 007 score, that simple high-hat that opens the Shaft theme never fails to get my adrenaline going.

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