Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm reeling from the idea that we lost Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac in the same weekend. Both way too young, both basically geniuses, both captured at the absolute height of their powers headlining great documentaries (Wattstax for Hayes, Kings of Comedy for Bernie Mac). Hayes played a free show at the Prospect Park bandshell just a couple of months ago. He was definitely looking pretty frail, to the point where he had to stay seated most of the time and people had to lead him on and offstage. But his voice sounded exactly the same as it always had, and he was robust enough to do a full show without losing his place or running out of steam or forgetting the words to "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." The first graph of the Status review I wrote for that show was one of my favorite things that I wrote in those last few months, and today it almost reads as a premature obit:

Isaac Hayes co-wrote "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Comin'" for Sam & Dave. He played the Duke in Escape From New York. He recorded a ten-minute disco-funk epic about threesomes. He headlined the 1972 Wattstax festival wearing a vest made out of chains. He showed up on "I Can't Go to Sleep," one of the most hallucinatory songs in Wu-Tang Clan history, basically playing Ghostface's conscience. He wrote the euphoric "Theme From Shaft" and won an Oscar for it, becoming the first-ever black non-actor to win one. In the early 70s, he routinely turned Burt Bacharach pop standards into unrecognizable woozy endless psych-funk odysseys, which then became hits. At an age when most of his peers were either dead or fading away on the nostalgia circuit, he accepted a voice-actor role on a gleefully offensive cartoon about kids made from construction-paper cutouts, playing a character that spoofed his sexed-out persona, and he scored one of his biggest-ever international hits in character. Basically, Isaac Hayes is one of the most unfadeable badasses in pop-music history, and so it was an unpleasant shock to see that a stagehand had to help him to the stage at the Prospect Park bandshell last night.