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From the Archives: Soul Musician Isaac Hayes.

Composer and musician Isaac Hayes. He's being recognized for his work as a songwriter by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Hayes rose to the top of the charts in the 1970's on the Stax label, a soul record label. He released his first solo album, "Presenting Isaac Hayes," in 1968. His next album, "Hot Buttered Soul," became a gold record in the 1970's. His 1972 soundtrack to the movie "Shaft," went platinum and won an Oscar for "Theme From Shaft." Hayes is also an actor, who has held roles in the movies "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," "Posse," and "It Could Happen to You." He's also a regular voice (as the Chef) on the cable animation show "South Park." (REBROADCAST from 7/28/94)

21:32

Other segments from the episode on February 26, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 26, 1999: Obituary for Andre Dubus; Interview with Isaac Hayes; Review of the film "8 MM."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: FEBRUARY 26, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 022601np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Isaac Hayes
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Last night at the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's 10th annual awards ceremony Isaac Hayes and David Porter were honored for their songwriting and production partnership. On this archive edition we have a 1994 interview with Isaac Hayes.

He won a 1972 Academy Award for the theme from "Shaft," which he wrote and sang. It launched a new sound in action themes. Now he's parodying his "love man" persona in his role as Chef on "South Park."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- MUSICIAN ISAAC HAYES PERFORMING)

You know Kathie Lee you are a very special woman
I don't mean special in a Mary Tyler Moore way
Or a extra value meal at Happy Burger way
No I mean special like the song of the hummingbird

As it gets ready to find that female hummingbird
Make sweet love to it all night long
Just two hummingbirds moaning and groaning
Letting their bodies caress and touch each other in ecstasy

GROSS: We better fade here before Chef gets too carried away. In the '60s Isaac Hayes helped shaped the sound of Memphis soul music as a songwriter, arranger, producer and singer for Stax Records. He co-wrote hits for Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and Johnny Taylor. Then he started making his own albums like, "Hot Buttered Soul" and "Black Moses."

Before we hear a 1994 interview with him, let's listen to his 1970 recording of "I Stand Accused," written by Jerry Butler, produced by Hayes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- MUSICIAN ISAAC HAYES PERFORMING "I STAND ACCUSED")

I stand accused of loving you too much
And I hope I hope it's not a crime
Because if it is I'm guilty
Of loving you you you

Oh yeah

GROSS: Well, Isaac Hayes, I'd love to do a little musical biography of you. I know when you were growing up your idol was Nat Cole. What did you love about him?

ISAAC HAYES, COMPOSER; MUSICIAN: I loved his voice. I loved his delivery. He was so smooth and so cool. And his selection of songs, you know, a man of the romantic stuff. And I just loved it.

GROSS: Did you ever try to sing in his style?

HAYES: Yes, I did. When I was in high school and I won my first talent contest, I sang "Looking Back." And after then they called me "Nat" on account because I was a freshman in high school and everybody called me "Nat." I mean I was signing autographs and all that stuff. And it just really -- I guess that's when I realized I wanted to be in music.

GROSS: Now I know before you started making your own records, before you started singing on your records, you produced for other people and also you played piano and keyboards. And you used to play with Booker T and the MG's. Now how did you learn to play piano -- growing as poor as you did -- I know there were times in your life when you didn't have shoes, let alone a piano.

HAYES: That's true. How did I do that? Well, let's see, a friend of mine I grew up with -- Sidney Kirk (ph) -- he used to be my accompanist. We went places and he'd play for me. He joined the Air Force. He wasn't there.

There was a call into him about a gig New Year's Eve. His sister knew that I was destitute and I needed money, so she asked me if I wanted to play. Well, I could play maybe "Chopsticks" and stuff like that, and I said, "yeah, I'll take it." I took the gig out of desperation.

And when I got to the club I was petrified. I said, "oh, my God, they're going to shoot me. I can't play." And musicians started coming in, you know, setting up, tuning up. And I'm sitting there, you know, trying to be cool. I said, "God, they're going to find me out."

And the featured artist came in and said, "hey, man do you all know such and such" -- this is the first time this band had been put together. We didn't rehearse or anything. And everybody said, "yeah, we know it, blah blah blah." So he kicked off the tune and it sounded horrible. Everybody did. I said, "wow, these can't play either, so I'm comfortable."

You know, being New Year's Eve, the clientele was drunk and they thought we were cooking, you know.

LAUGHTER

And somewhere along the line, the club owner -- he was sauced -- he came up to me, "you know, you boys sound real good. You all want a regular job?" "Yeah, we'll take it." And that was in Memphis. It was a regular gig. And each night I would learn something more and more on the keyboards. And that's how I got started.

GROSS: That's great. And then you started sitting in with Booker T and the MG's.

HAYES: Well, I wound up at Stax Records. I changed bands and I joined Floyd Newman's band, who was a staff musician at Stax. He played baritone saxophone. All those "ba daps," stuff like that, that was Floyd.

So he was up for a recording. He said, "man, you know, we're going in the studio." And I had been prior -- I had been to Stax about three different times; with a blues band, with a vocal group, you know, trying to get a break and was always turned down.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm.

HAYES: This time I went in with Floyd and Howard Grimes, a drummer -- he and I wrote some songs and instrumentals and things like that. And Jim Stewart who, you know, was a co-owner of Stax, he said, "you know, you sound pretty good on keyboards. Booker T is off at Indiana U. -- at school -- would you like to become a staff musician here?" "Yeah," you know.

So that's how I got in Stax. And my first session I think was an Otis Redding album session. I was scared to death. But he made it easy. And I learned a lot, and I fit right in. And I became a staff musician.

So when Booker came back, he and I both played on sessions. We'd switched around; sometimes I'd play organ and he'd play piano. And sometimes I played piano, he played organ. And with Duck, Steve and Al we were the nucleus of Stax -- the rhythm section. And then of course the horns and so forth.

GROSS: Now you were not only a house musician at Stax, you became a house songwriter, and you wrote a lot of songs with your partner then, David Porter. And some of the most famous songs that you wrote were for Sam and Dave, like "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Coming." How were you given them to write for?

HAYES: Well, first thing, David and I started at Stax on staff. David and I went to rival schools singing in rival groups. And he said, "hey, man, I write lyrics and you play music, let's hook up and write like Holland Dozier Holland." I said, "OK."

So we teamed up and we started writing. And one day Jim Stewart called us all -- everybody on staff and said, " we got some fellows coming down and they need some writers and producers. So they're going to come around and meet with everybody, and you show them what you got."

So when Sam and Dave and them came to town they, you know, met with everybody and they wanted to work with David and me. And that's how the whole thing started.

GROSS: What do you remember about writing "Soul Man?"

HAYES: Well, I remember getting the idea from watching TV and the riots in Detroit. And it was said that if you put "soul" on your door -- your business establishment -- they would bypass it and wouldn't burn it. And then the word "soul," you know, the clenched fist, you know, "soul brothers" -- soul this.

A lot of it was a galvanizing kind of thing as far as, you know, African-Americans were concerned. And it had a kind of effective unity, and they said it with a lot of pride. So I said, "well, why not write a tune called `Soul Man?'" And all you had to do was write about your own personal experiences, because, you know, we -- everybody -- all African-Americans in this country, during those times especially, had similar experiences. So we did that.

But realized that in addition to being an African-American experience, it was a human experience. So therefore it crossed the board. And then the groove and all -- everything else that went with it -- just made it, you know, very very commercial.

GROSS: So did you arrange this tune?

HAYES: Yes.

GROSS: And are you featured instrumentally?

HAYES: I wasn't featured, I just played piano on it. Well, you know, I did some little hot licks in there and stuff like that.

GROSS: OK. Well, let's hear "Soul Man," co-written by my guest Isaac Hayes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SAM AND DAVE PERFORMING "SOUL MAN")

Coming to you on a dusty road
Good loving I got a truck load
And when you get it
You got something

So don't worry
Cause I'm coming
I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man

I'm a soul man
I'm a soul man

GROSS: That's Sam and Dave. We'll continue our interview with Isaac Hayes after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: My guest is Isaac Hayes.

You developed a style of singing in which you did long raps that kind of gave a back story to the song. And the rap would lead you into the song. And the songs are often, you know, like pop tunes other people had written like, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."

HAYES: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: But you'd kind of make up the whole story leading up to it. How did you start doing that, combining these raps with pop tunes?

HAYES: Remember the famous quote in "Cool Hand Luke?" I forget the actor's name -- "what we have here is a failure to communicate."

GROSS: Yeah.

HAYES: Remember that?

GROSS: Sure.

HAYES: Well, I did that. The rap came out of the necessity to communicate. And the way it happened was -- there's a local club in Memphis, predominately black, that was called the Tiki Club. And, you know, we would hang out there. The Bar-Kays were playing there sometimes and we would hang out there and sit in, you know how musicians do.

And this -- one day I heard this song by Glen Campbell, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." I said, "wow, this song is great. This man must really love this woman." And so I ran down to the studio later on that day and said, "man, you all hear this song `Phoenix?' Man, it's great."

Everybody was, "yeah, yeah." No enthusiasm. I was saying, "these guys don't feel what I feel, Are they getting it?" So the Bar-Kays were scheduled to play the Tiki Club a couple of days later, and I said, "hey, man, I'm coming down and sit in with you guys. And learn `By the Time I Get to Phoenix.'" They said, "OK."

I told them the key -- in E flat -- and so I went down, and the club was packed. I go up on stage, "ladies and gentleman you all know him blah blah blah, Isaac Hayes." And there was all kind of conversations going, you know, "blah blah blah." I said, "oh, man, how am I going to get these people's attention?"

So I said, "hey, man, the first chord in the song, you all hang up on it. It's a B flat 11. Just hang up on the chord. Just keep cycling it." And I started talking. I just started telling this story how -- there was a scenario -- how -- about what could have happened to cause this man to leave, you know.

And I started talking, and the conversation's -- halfway through the rap that conversation started to subside. When I reached the first line in the song, when I said, "by the time I get to Phoenix," everybody went "wow!" And, you know, when I finished the song there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

GROSS: Well, I want to play an excerpt of your recording of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." This is Isaac Hayes.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- MUSICIAN ISAAC HAYES PERFORMING "BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX")

But one day one day
Old boy got sick
And he had to come home
I don't have to tell you what he found

Oh he hurt him so bad
He said baby
Mama why
That's all he could say

But she said oh
Go on fool you doing it
But the man wasn't doing it
But that's the only excuse she could give him

He said mama I can't take it
I got to leave you
I'm going leave you
Well she tried to straighten up

She said she was going to straighten up
She got a little job to help him out with the bills too
But that was just a sham
Because he found it again and again

And seven times he left this woman
And seven times he came back
And he'd taken all that he could stand
And the eighth time that this went down

He said mama I got to go
He said I'm leaving my heart right here
Oh I don't want to go but I got to leave mama
He said by the time I get to Phoenix

She'll be rising

GROSS: Isaac Hayes, do you feel a kind of special affinity with rap music now? Do you feel a connection between what you were doing and what's being done now?

HAYES: Well, some people try to equate it. In the sense that it's rap -- now the only way I came close to this rap is the first verse in the song "Shaft." And that is "who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks?"

Well, that's rhythm. That's rapping in rhythm. And that's what this rap is today. I think that's the only similarity that you might -- I might have with the rap of today. Everything else is different. You know, I never considered myself a rapper. They say, you know, although I label the tunes "Ike's Rap One," "Ike's Rap Two" and so forth. But I -- I more looked at myself as a storyteller, you know.

GROSS: Mmm-hmm. Well, I'm glad you mentioned "Shaft" because that's the next stop on this tour of your work. Now, you recorded the theme for the movie "Shaft" in, I guess it was, 1971. How were you asked to do this?

HAYES: Well, there was a whole concept. Hollywood recognized that they had to look further than they had been looking to get business. I think it was fledgling at the time. It was a bit stagnant. And Melvin Van Peebles had put out a movie called, "Sweetbacks Baadassss Song."

And they said, "it might be a market there. If we come up with a concept to have a leading -- black leading man, a black director, maybe black composer we might hit that market." MGM was the one that pioneered the idea.

So we had a meeting out there, at MGM, with Stax execs and they asked me to come. And they talked about the concept and would I do the music. Would I be interested in doing the music. Yeah. I said, "I want to act too. Have you all cast for the lead role?" "Well, no. We'll look into that."

But anyway I think that was a (unintelligible). So I agreed to do the music. They had already cast Richard Roundtree, which was rightfully so. He's perfect for the part. And I -- we'd do the music. That's how the whole thing -- the whole idea came about.

GROSS: You guys were really getting into orchestrating, right?

HAYES: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: So tell me how you started using that wah-wah guitar funk style.

HAYES: Well, OK, trade secrets. What happened was I had been doing arranging all the time. I did a lot of arranging with the horns and stuff at Stax. And the first string arrangements that I tried was a thing that David and I did on Sam and Dave. And that album was like a big flop.

But we tried it anyway. But I had a taste for it, and once I had tasted the strings I couldn't let it go. Now when sometimes in the studio you're working on various grooves and stuff, and you can't find a name for it or you can't tag it with anything, you just -- if it feels good you say, "OK, I'm going to file that."

And you put it up. You put it back and you store it. Now when it was time for me to do the "Shaft" theme I said, "what can I do?" They explained the character to me -- a relentless character always all on the move. Always on the prowl. And you got to get something to denote that for the main theme.

I said, "what can I do?" I thought about -- if you remember Otis Redding's "Trial and Tenderness," I had a hand in that arrangement too. In the end, Al Jackson was doing some stuff on a hi-hat cymbal, you know, "you got to na na," you know. So I thought about that. I said, "maybe if I just sustain that particular thing on the hi-hat that will give you a dramatic effect as something that's relentless. Now what else can I do?"

I thought about the guitar lick, and I went and pulled it out, played it and Charles Pierce, we called him "Skip," he played the thing on the wah-wah. I said, "hey, play this line." He started it, and I told Willie the drummer, I said, "give me that hi-hat, some sixteenth notes." And he did that. And it worked. I said, "that's the kind of dramatic effect I want."

Then I started putting the other things in, you know, the bass, the accents and all that stuff. But that's how that whole wah-wah thing came about.

GROSS: Isaac Hayes, recorded in 1994. Last night he was one of the honorees at the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's 10th annual awards ceremony.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Isaac Hayes
High: Composer and musician Isaac Hayes. He's being recognized for his work as a songwriter by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Hayes rose to the top of the charts in the 1970s on the Stax label. He released his first solo album, "Presenting Isaac Hayes" in 1968. His next album, "Hot Buttered Soul," became a gold record in the 1970s. His 1972 soundtrack to the movie "Shaft" went platinum and won an Oscar for "Theme From Shaft." Hayes is also an actor who has roles in the movies "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka," "Posse," and "It Could Happen to You." He's also a regular voice (as the Chef) on the cable animation show "South Park."
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Isaac Hayes

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Isaac Hayes

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: FEBRUARY 26, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 022602NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: John Powers
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST: "8MM" is a new Hollywood thriller starring Nicholas Cage as a private eye investigating the underbelly of the porn business. It's directed by Joel Schumacher, who made the last two "Batman" movies and the screen adaptations of John Grisham's novels "The Client" and "A Time to Kill." Our film critic John Powers has a review.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: Although it's become a cliche to talk about the banality of evil this is not an idea that ever really penetrated Hollywood, whose notions of evil are so devoutly bombastic that you often have to fight your temptation to snicker. I lost that fight watching "8MM," a new thriller that gives lurid sensationalism a bad name.

Nicholas Cage is Tom Wells, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania surveillance specialist with a loving wife, played by Catherine Keener, and a cute baby daughter. One day Wells is called to meet a rich local widow who has found something in her late husband's effects, an 8 MM snuff film in which a teenage girl is apparently killed on camera.

Eager to know if the film is real, she asks Wells to trace its origins and find out what happened to the girl. The assignment launches him on to a journey across America that leads, of course, to L.A. where he hooks up with Joaquin Phoenix's character, Max California, a bright good-hearted clerk in an adult bookstore.

Led by Max, Wells scuba dives in the porno swamp looking for the sleazeballs who might film a murder for the right price. In the process, he becomes more and more absorbed by his quest, an obsession that Max tells him can be dangerous.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- SCENE FROM THE FILM "8MM")

JOAQUIN PHOENIX, ACTOR: Look, pops, it's not too late to change your mind about all this. Let me tell you, there's things that you're going to see that you can't unsee. They get in your head and they stay there.

NICHOLAS CAGE, ACTOR: How do you know what I've seen?

PHOENIX: OK, fine. But everybody's got their limit. Look, I've been here six years trying to get my music together, so I start clerking part-time where I work here to make ends meet. And boom, a couple of years go by and here I am. I'm just saying before you know it, you're in it. Deep in it.

CAGE: Don't worry about me. But thank you.

PHOENIX: Oh, you're welcome. Pops, if you dance with the Devil the Devil don't change. The Devil changes you.

POWERS: Deep, man. In fact, this line actually is about as deep as "8MM" ever gets. The screenplay is by Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote the hit movie "Seven." And his new script features the same apparent desire to grapple with evil. I say apparent because Walker is less interested in understanding evil than in milking it.

He likes to titillate the audience with porno shops, flashes of nudity, sadists in hoods, and wicked tycoons who'll pay a million dollars for a snuff film just because they can.

In "Seven," Walker's trashy sensibility was transcended by David Fincher's directorial panache. Unfortunately, "8MM" was made by Joel Schumacher who brings nothing to the table but the desire to work us over. When he's not stealing ideas from other films, like "Silence of the Lambs" and "Hardcore," Schumacher is letting his actors run amok.

The greatest disappointment is Cage, a performer racing headlong into well-paid self-parody. Cage has said that he took the role in order to "maximize his ability to do minimalist work." If this is minimalism, so is the running of the bulls at Pamplona.

Tom Wells is supposed to be an experienced investigator, but Cage plays him as a hysterical innocent who, when not writhing or twitching or going berserk, stares soulfully at people as though he's melting under the weight of all human sadness. He seems to think he's in something really heavy like Sophocles or "City of Angels."

Joaquin Phoenix doesn't. He knows the movie's rubbish. And he plays with the role of Max California, moving jauntily around the frame and giving his dialog an enjoyably delicate spin. He steals the movie with the charming slyness that Cage used to bring to parts.

From beginning to end, "8MM" is filled with the kind of blunders that drive me nuts such as the clips we see from the snuff film, which look like blurry outtakes from some terrible alternative rock video. What's that supposed to be? If I were paying a million dollars to see someone killed on screen I expect the camera to focus on the murder and not whip around the room like a frightened ferret.

Yet what's even worse is the sheer laziness of its luridness. In an attempt to make us feel good watching characters dance with the Devil, Schumacher and company blur all sorts of fundamental distinctions like the one between sex and violence. To judge from this movie, there's no difference between reading a dirty book, going to a strip club, engaging in consensual S&M and slaughtering innocent young girls on camera.

Which is why, despite its hip cast and racy veneer, "8MM" seems like a movie you'd find in a time capsule. It's the "Reefer Madness" of pornography.

GROSS: John Powers is film critic for "Vogue."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: John Powers
High: Film critic John Powers reviews "8MM" the new film starring Nicholas Cage.
Spec: Entertainment; Movie Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Nicholas Cage; John Powers

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: John Powers
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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