Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Isaac Hayes, 1942-2008

The first African American to win a music Oscar — or, indeed, an Oscar in any category except for acting — was no comforting crooner. Hayes reeked sex, in his surly bass voice and the insolence of his lyrics: "Who's the black private dick / That's a sex machine to all the chicks?" The 1971 Theme from Shaft put the Hollywood imprimatur on the budding career of a Stax Records writer-producer who, with David Porter, had birthed two Sam & Dave hits: Soul Man, with its chorus of brazen stuttering horns, and the pre-orgasmic Hold On, I'm Coming. His last big gig was as Chef, the cafeteria sage of South Park Elementary School. Hayes died, at 65, while exercising on a home treadmill; but this was one soul man who never walked in place. His life was a sassy, nonstop strut.

Richard Corliss