Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Black man, born free,
At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
The chains that bind him are hard to see,
Unless you take this walk with me;

The place where he lives, God, he gives them names
The Hood, The Projects, The Ghetto; they are one and the same;
And I call it Soulsville ah, yeah.

Any kind of job is hard to find,
That means an increase in the welfare line;
The crime rate is rising too, but
If you are hungry, what would you do?

The rent is two months past due, in a building that’s falling apart,
Little boy needs a new pair of shoes, and this is only a part of Soulsville.

From “Soulsville” by Isaac Hayes, released July 2, 1971 on the album Shaft

Isaac Hayes was born on August 20th 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. He transitioned to be with the ancestors on August 10th, 2008, ten days before his 66th birthday. Hayes was famous for a voice that made you think of stroking lush black velvet. The experience of listening to his second album Hot Buttered Soul released in July 12, 1969 with 12 minutes of “Walk on by” and 18 minutes of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” can only be surpassed by watching him perform. The man looks as good as he sounds, with signature dark glasses, sculpted body, clean shaven head and those lips! Hayes was also a song writer whose work brought other performers fame. He wrote the lyrics for several Sam and Dave hit recordings including, Soul Man; Hold On, I'm Coming; I Thank You and When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. His most famous work which garnered him an Oscar in 1972, was the theme from the movie Shaft. The Theme From Shaft also won two Grammys, a Golden Globe award and the NAACP Image Award. The Theme From Shaft was popular worldwide ( Hayes won a third Grammy for his album "Black Moses." The music Hayes composed has been sampled by hip-hop, rap and R&B artists. Since 1990, he has been sampled over 140 times by artists such as Destiny’s Child, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, TLC and Tupac.

Hayes proved to be much more than an entertainer with a gorgeous face and body. He was also a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just before Dr. King was assassinated and was scheduled to meet with him the day he died. Like many African Americans, Hayes was traumatized by Dr. King’s assassination. In an interview with Rob Bowman author of Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records he said: "It affected me for a whole year, I could not create properly. I was so bitter and so angry. I thought, What can I do? Well, I can't do a thing about it so let me become successful and powerful enough where I can have a voice to make a difference. So I went back to work and started writing again."

Hayes’s life changed significantly when he and Dionne Warwick accepted an invitation from the Cultural Minister of Ghana to visit the Cape Coast and Elmina slave castles. In 1992, walking through the dungeons, listening to the horrifying stories told by the guide, like many Africans in the Diaspora who visit these places, Hayes was reduced to tears. In an interview he told a journalist; "It was almost like I heard the voices of my ancestors saying, 'We've come back home through you. The circle is complete. Now, you know what you must do'." Returning to America, the entertainer/civil rights activist made use of his celebrity status as he embarked on a mission to raise awareness in the African-American community of the need to build schools, conquer illiteracy and support the economic development of African nations. He spoke to African-American community groups and Black expos around the country. He encouraged everyone he met to visit Africa, to interact with the people, or to at least support economic development of African countries.

One speaking engagement in Queens, New York, was attended by princess Naa Asie Ocansey of the Ada Traditional area in Ghana. Impressed with Hayes’s passion and commitment to working for the development of African countries, Naa Asie contacted her father, Nene Kubi III, Dzasetse (King Maker) of the Ada Traditional area and made arrangements for Hayes’s enstoolment (coronation.) The coronation rituals were conducted in late December 1992. The coronation was attended by the group Public Enemy who performed at concerts with Hayes at Cape Coast Castle and in Accra, Ghana's capital city.

Hayes was given the royal name: Nene Katey Ocansey I. "Nene means king in the Ga Dialect," he explained. "Katey means brave warrior who can calm the wild beast in the elements. Ocansey is a family name, the most powerful of the ten clans in my region, Ada, which means I do as I say!" He was appointed King For Development over the region and given land on which to build a palace. Hayes did not build a palace; instead he built an 8,000 square foot school “NekoTech” which opened in 2000 and is designed to link children in Africa with those in American inner cities via the Internet.

Not one to rest on his laurels, he also created the Isaac Hayes Foundation, whose global mission is to “help people become whole by advancing the causes of literacy, music education, nutritional programs and organizing programs that raise self-esteem among the underprivileged.” Hayes visited the World Literacy Crusade's Compton Literacy Project in 1994 where he heard the life-changing stories from youth and adults using the Applied Scholastics Study Technology there. World Literacy Crusade is a grassroots literacy movement formed in 1992 by the Reverend Alfreddie Johnson Jr., the pastor of True Faith Christian Church, (a Baptist congregation in Compton, California) community leaders, ministers, parents, youth and educators concerned about the growing rate of illiteracy and related social ills in their communities. In addition to helping youth and adults struggling with illiteracy, through an affiliated organization American Health and Education Clinics, World Literacy Crusade also helps people with criminal records and those addicted to drugs to reform and reclaim their lives. Hayes became the International Spokesperson for the World Literacy Crusade. He worked tirelessly to help expand the community programs in several countries, making media appearances, regularly hosting events and speaking at conferences to raise awareness and funding for the World Literacy Crusade.

We have lost a griot, “A mighty tree has fallen.” Isaac Hayes will be missed and many will feel as the man himself sang, that they “Never can say goodbye.”

This tribute to Issac Hayes the original Soul Man was written in August 2008

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