Isaac Hayes, RIP

Success came to Isaac Hayes at an early age, but he had the typical hardscrabble Southern childhood of many soul artists and he had already been working for several years when success hit. He tried to make it in the music business in a variety of groups before financial pressures compelled him to go to work as a packer in a meat plant in Memphis. Around that time he met David Porter when Porter tried to sell him life insurance. Porter wasn’t any more interested in selling insurance than Hayes was in meat packing. They had a passion for music.

Hayes landed at Stax Records in Memphis for session work and teamed up with Porter to write songs. When Jerry Wexler signed Sam and Dave to Atlantic Records in 1965, he sent them to record at Stax. Of all the material offered to them, Sam and Dave liked the material that Hayes and Porter had worked up for them the best.

In October 1965, Sam and Dave cut the Hayes/Porter number “You Don’t Know Like I Know.” It shot to the Top 10 of the rhythm and blues chart but, as Peter Guralnick notes in Sweet Soul Music, its success only foreshadowed the success of their next song, “Hold On, I’m Comin,'” and all the rest. By the time Stanley Booth showed up in 1967 to profile the Stax scene for the Saturday Evening Post, he found Hayes imploring Porter to turn his attention from the lady on his mind back to songwriting: “Let’s go, man, let’s go. I’m hot.”

Hayes emerged from his songwriting partnership with Porter to become a star in his own right, but nothing in his later work eclipsed his work with Porter. In the video above, Sam and Dave perform the Hayes/Porter number “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” before a European audience in the spring of 1967, backed by Steve Cropper on rhythm guitar, Duck Dunn on bass and Al Jackson on drums (I think).

Isaac Hayes died yesterday at his home near Memphis. Hayes was 65. The Washington Post and the AP recap Hayes’s storied career in good obituaries. RIP.

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