"Black Moses", but before his Exodus, he was a staff writer (paired mainly with David Porter) and musician (saxophone, piano, organ) at Stax Records in Memphis. When given the chance to do his own stuff on Stax's Enterprise subsidiary, Ike invented symphonic soul music; while it wasn't unusual for producers to put strings and horns on a tune here, a tune there, Ike made it part of his aesthetic: he'd take a short Jimmy Webb or Bacharach/David tune and fashion a half-hour opus, with orchestral passages and monologues ("raps").

His fame grew. He was hired to do the soundtrack to MGM's Shaft, and the classic "Theme" was proto-disco; others, like Barry White and Gamble and Huff, took that ball and ran with it, while Ike failed to score big in the disco era. Instead, he had the first of his bankruptcies - lavish spending, bad investments, and an elaborate stage show left him, IIRC, $6 million in debt. In later decades, Scientology would steal his lunch money.

Ike was some sort of fashion plate in the old days. Long before Mr. T and hip-hop, part of his trademark was gold chains. Like big, big, dukey chains, y'see wh'um sayin? It may have reached its peak around the time of his Live at the Sahara Tahoe recording, when Ike wore a "robe" that was a grid of chains; like the Emperor's New Clothes, you pretty much saw skin. I'm not even sure if he was wearing anything underneath.

His parallel acting career has had its ups and downs, but he's pretty good for an organist. Roles include a couple of guest shots on The Rockford Files, the blaxploitation flick Truck Turner, and what is now his most famous role: the voice of Chef on South Park. Through the magic of channel surfing, I managed to hear "Salty Balls" for the first (and last) time, during a live WWF concert, of all places. It was nice to hear - I was afraid it would be some Primus oil-and-water thing. But still, I suspect it only gives you a glimpse of what it must have been like for a grownup to hear him circa 1972.


In my mind's eye, I will always see him nailed to the wall.

One of the most creative songwriters and performers ever. His remake (I can't really call his stuff a cover, because he really changes a lot of stuff) of Bill Withers' Ain't no Sunshine, which he dropped live on the Wattstax album is one of the jaw-droppingest cuts I have ever heard. He took Walk on by to a level Dionne Warwick could not attain. He wrote the soundtrack to Shaft. The title song won an Oscar. You damn right. Shut yo mouth.

Editor's note: Isaac Hayes died in Memphis, Tennessee, on August 10, 2008.

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