It’s not often that I get emotional over a musician’s death, but when I heard Isaac Hayes passed away I was saddened, like I'd lost a friend. In fact, his music was my friend in times when I needed it the most. If I was in love, Isaac encouraged me. If a girl left me, Isaac was there to console me. When I hated the world, Isaac was there to show that love conquers all. Basically, when the shit hit the fan, Isaac Hayes was a friend when no one else was.
Back in 1994, I was hired as a bass player to go on the road with a band. After each tour, someone in the crew or band got let go in the most absurd passive aggressive manner. It was never "thank you, but your services are no longer needed", it was just a lot of bad vibes until you either quit or once the tour ended you were replaced without notice. It was nerve wracking to say the least. I figured they were going to fire me at any time. It was like being in the mob and waiting for a hit that would eventually come. On the last tour, I knew my time had come. We were in Europe and I was starting to get the bad vibes. I was getting the silent treatment from everyone on tour, including the star of the show. I felt ignored and was getting shut out of activities that a band and crew engage in on tour. Alone in my bunk on a bus, I found solace through music. My anger about my situation was alleviated by a rotation of The Stooges Funhouse, Black Flag’s Slip It In and NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. But once I was done with my anger and the rotation of those CD’s, I felt that isolation deep inside. Those long drives over night from city to city can be some of the loneliest times, especially if you don’t feel like you have any friends around you. I missed my family, Los Angeles and Mexican food. I missed talking to people on a homie level. That’s where Isaac came in.
Before we left for our European tour, I bought Isaac Hayes’ Black Moses. That album was a cold drink of water to a thirsty man. Although most of the songs are covers, it was his interpretations and the emotions that he put into the songs that got me. It felt real in a world that was unreal. Each arrangement felt heavy, not in the rock and roll sense of heavy, but in the sense that I believed every word he was saying. When he sang, “I Never Can Say Goodbye," it felt like he was never-ever going to say goodbye. Michael Jackson is a great singer but the youthful Jackson 5 version doesn’t sound heartbroken. Isaac's version is almost painful to hear. When he was “Going In Circles” you could feel that frustration of being in love and being pulled in one direction and then to another. Even his versions of pop fluff, ["(They Long To Be) Close To You," "I’ll Never Fall In Love Again"] were done with such conviction, I couldn't help but believe in those songs. I listened to every word, every arrangement and every harmony. The subtlety of the instrumentation had me transfixed; I broke down each part in my bunk. It was like a class in musical arrangement. Much like listening to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the more I listened to it, the more I got out of it.
Suffice to say, that European tour was my last with that group. I have no regrets, especially because that last tour was when I discovered Black Moses. That album changed my life. After that, a whole new world of music was opened up to me-- one of arrangements out of the norm and where every note you sing or play has the potential to move people. That is what Isaac showed me in those dark nights on bus, and I will forever be thankful to him.
Thank You Isaac, for everything. Rest in peace friend.