i remember meeting isaac hayes

10 08 2008

isaac hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose “theme from shaft” won both academy and grammy awards, died sunday afternoon after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. he was 65.” from msnbc report (sunday, august 10).

being a self professed music-head, i have long been aware of isaac hayes’ influence across the musical landscape throughout the greater part of the last 5 decades.  but in 2003 I had the honor of actually meeting this man who almost singlehandedly ushered in a new era of modern soul music.

it was the spring of 2003 and i was working in nashville in the emi gospel divison of emicmg, where i was responsible for both radio and internet promotions. together with forefront records, also an emicmg label, we had co-signed a 13 year old new artist from atlanta named lil irocc williams.  i spent a lot of time on the road during this season, and somewhere around may of that year i traveled with lil irocc and his family to memphis for a women’s expo where irocc would be performing during the sunday gospel concert.

we were staying at the world famous peabody hotel on union avenue (and yes we saw the ducks) and earlier in the day we made our way across the street in search of food.  after passing up several other options, we decided to go to isaac hayes’ restaurant and upon our arrival found out they were having a sunday gospel brunch.  once our server discovered that irocc was a gospel rap artist, he informed the manager and they asked him to do a couple of songs.  i always carried the tracks with me everywhere we went, so we were able to make it happen on the spot.

somewhere toward the end of the second song, i became aware that mr. hayes had entered the building and was watching irocc perform.  after the performance, mr. hayes greeted irocc and his family.  i remember him being very kind and offering some very supportive and encouraging words to the young and budding artist.  i remember shaking his hand, thanking him, complementing him on his restaurant and taking a picture of him with irocc.  mr. hayes had such a larger than life persona than commanded attention and respect. sure wish i could find that pic now.

so while isaac hayes left an indelible mark on the music world at large, i will never forget how our paths crossed in memphis, tennessee over fried catfish and a 13 year-old gospel rapper.

rest in peace, mr. hayes.

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