Sunday, August 10, 2008
This weekend marks the passing of two remarkable entertainers, one a ground breaking comic, the other, a bonafied soul genius.
I first became familiar with Bernie Mac in Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy. I still pee my pants when I think about the line "where's the cookies and shit?" and his routine about taking care of his drug addicted sister's children while he and his wife try to settle into retirement and their second honeymoon phase. A student of Richard Pryor, his raw, unapologetic and personal style of comedy made this Chicagoan truly special. He will be missed.
Isaac Hayes was one of the first artists that truly exposed me to soul as a kid. I would hear the "Theme from Shaft" on V103 and just light up: the "shut your mouth!" line, the booming build up...the song was epic, to say the very least. His cool and calm delivery, the fantastic deepness of his voice, was unlike anything I had heard before, or since. And as I got older, I realized that he was much more than the bald dude in the gold chains; he was responsible for the majority of Stax's greatness, and if Atlantic Records was the house that Ahmet built, then Stax was the house the Isaac built, hit by hit. A behind the scenes man with David Porter, Hayes came into his own with his landmark Hot Buttered Soul album, and his cover of "Walk On By" is by far and away one of my all time favorite songs. The intensity of his performance style is best captured in Wattstax, where he headlined, stopping the show with his outrageous entrance, removing his cloak to reveal gold genie pants, a glittering chain link shirt and a visceral and magnificent musical aura. He may be best remembered by my generation as Chef (and for his angry departure from "South Park" due to his Scientologist beliefs) but to me and the soul music world, he will always be known as a true innovator and the number one "Soul Man."