Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still Isaac Hayes

Death is a difficult thing to digest.

The gag reflex of the heart (or is it the soul?) tends to produce a vomitous outpouring of sadness, anger and the most profound of all human vulnerabilities: that we are merely human after all.

Somewhere in some Parisian apartment--in the moments just before either of Daft Punk were a glint in their father's eyes--there was, probably, a record spinning on a turntable. This record would have helped spark that glint in their father's eyes. This record would have served as the soundtrack to the session that conceived either of Daft Punk. This record, of course, would have featured the voice of Isaac Hayes.

It's both easy and predictable to say that Isaac Hayes was a bad mother--shutyermouth. It's also true.

A week (two?) has passed since Black Moses suddenly escaped planet earth. I'm sure there have been a dozen kadrillion fitting eulogies for him. Each of them celebrating the epochs that comprised his career. Some of them exploring the man and his choices of faith. And, I'd guess, that a fair amount of them included the phrase "chocolate salty balls."

Ultimately, there's nothing tragic about the death of Isaac Hayes. There is only tragedy in the timing and/or the circumstances of his exit. This is true for all of us. We all finish the human race in the exact same place.

While I know that everyone mourns differently--digesting death individually--I feel a bit dismissive of the whole process where someone of Isaac Hayes' stature is concerned. He became something. Rather, he became several somethings. Equal to the expectations of different people depending on what role he performed in at the different plot points that comprised his career.

I suspect that some of those people feel as if one of their icons has fallen. Truth is, he could never fall. Once he came to stand for something, he would forever stand for that thing. If there's any doubt whatsoever, then put your head phones on and journey back to that day when that bad mother--shutyermouth took center stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coleseum. The day he performed at Wattstax. Live. Put that CD on. Or pop the movie in. And there he. Still standing. Still the icon. Whatever happened in addition to that moment, there always will be that moment.

Maybe a better example of the permanence of iconography is Michael Jackson. For a lot of people, he's a crazy child molester and that's it. (Which is much more extreme than Isaac Hayes being reduced to Chef.) But, if Thriller or Heartbreak Hotel or A-B-C ever meant something to you, I'd bet that you could listen to those records and still connect with that thing. No matter how far the icon seems to fall, there is still that place where he once stood. And, for whatever reason he stood there, there is always some relic to transport those who bore witness back to that place.

So, there was Isaac Hayes. And there is Isaac Hayes.

Wherever his spirit is traveling to right now, that doesn't change.

He still stands accused. And he's still a bad mother--shutyermouth.

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