Isaac Hayes gets plenty of song time on Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s SouthPark, performing “Chocolate Salty Balls” and many other SouthPark fan favorites. But the man who wrote the theme from ‘Shaft’ has a fabulous back catalogue and filmography that shows true artistic range.
Shaft was a landmark film for all involved. The film created a genre of African-American hero movies and opened up Hollywood to new voices in American cinema. Shaft turned the traditional action movie on its ear from its antihero characters to the great, throbbing soundtrack.
Hayes rode the success of Shaft into his own movie tough guy role in ‘Truck Turner.’ That movie featured another blistering soundtrack by none other Hayes himself; the songs so good that Quentin Tarantino had the wisdom to plunder them for ‘Kill Bill’ when The Bride escapes from the hospital after a lengthy coma.
Hayes also did the soundtrack for another film that he starred in-the Italian produced ‘Tough Guys.’ It was yet another strong performance by the singer on both the silver screen and the music department. Hayes has a real talent for both.
On the DVD release of “Shaft” there is a fantastic behind-the-scenes feature that shows the director sitting in on a recording session with Hayes and his band as they constructed the basic sound for the film’s theme song. Hayes is a master piano player and skilled band leader-he shows his expertise in both in the feature. It’s easy to see the enthusiasm both he and the band had for the film.
Hayes couldn’t stay away from the silver screen. Filmmaker John Carpenter offered him the chance to play the lead heavy in ‘Escape From New York.’ Hayes played ‘The Duke of New York’. He sadly didn’t get to do soundtrack music for “Escape.” Carpenter does most of his own scores, but the film was a success, contributing to Hayes’s star power.
He’s shown up in some unlikely places on screen including an appearance in “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” and “Flipper.” His obscure work includes musical contributions to the long-forgotten “Shaft” TV series.
Issac Hayes has done great work on-and for-the silver screen, but it’s his albums that truly deserve a look by today’s generation of music lovers. Releases like “Hot Buttered Soul” and “Black Moses” are full of soulful love songs and funky grooves.
“Hot Buttered Soul” is one of the most sampled albums of all time. While this may be a tribute to the grooviness of the original funk tracks, these albums have yet to be given proper re-issues with bonus tracks, better mastering and liner notes. There have been numerous best-of compilations, but the whole catalogue should be updated for the year 2005 and beyond.
Today, Isaac Hayes has been selected to become part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the funk master tours with a basketball troupe called the Crusaders, playing games for charity. He is also part of the World Literacy Crusade and works with inner-city groups in outreach programs. An Isaac Hayes reissue boxed set for charity would be a most welcome addition to his catalogue.
Hayes does a great job as the voice of the ‘Chef’ character on SouthPark. It’s a shame that most of today’s audiences are only familiar with this portion of his work. He is truly one of the greats of funk, soul and R&B.