Isaac Hayes (20 August 1942 – 10 August 2008)

Isaac Hayes It was the era of bold black masculinity, the age of Blaxploitation. When musicians were not scared to have big bushy beards, wear silly clothes. You can just imagine what fashion magazines would say now if NE-YO or Chris Brown showed up with a full unshaven beard.

In America Black people were not only more self-confident but were also just fed up. So looking like Nat Turner was the thing to do. The apologetic politics of the civil rights movement had given way to James Brown’s Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud. Isaac Hayes was a big part of that. The earliest memories I have of the dude was of him in red tights and chains. For a while he took to calling himself Black Moses.

In music it was not unheard of to have tracks that are more than 11 minutes long and a long monologue to go with it, typically in a deep baritone voice. Of course the sistaz were also into monologues Millie Jackson in All the Way Lover and Shirley Brown in Woman to Woman. The staple diet of many Sunday afternoon radio shows was Isaac Hayes’ Stand Accused.

And who can forget the album that won him the grammy the soundtrack to Shaft. In those days the horns and the strings were not produced electronically. Musicians toured with a big band.

But Black Moses had his fair share of low moments. He was one of the musicians along with Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and others that broke the cultural boycott and performed in Apartheid South Africa. And of course he also went into that place that old rock stars go to that we shall not mention from where he found reincarnation as Chef in South Park.

Of course this was all just a little before the time I came of age in the 80’s and by then people like Isaac Hayes were beginning to fade from the popular scene. But the music lived on and still does.