Back in 1995, I was lucky enough to interview Isaac Hayes — who passed away Sunday, age 65 — for PAPER magazine. The occasion was the release of his then-new album, Branded, which marked a return for form for the soul legend. More importantly, it was a chance for a sit-down meeting with this larger-than-life character, several years before South Park kick-started his career.
I flew to Memphis, TN, for the story, and Hayes wanted to meet at a Waffle House. Folks kept interrupting our meal to express their admiration, share memories of seeing him perform, and tell him their favorite songs; even a couple Deadheads in the parking lot identified “Black Moses” as we strolled in. Between signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, it seems amazing he found time to answer my questions, but he did — thoughtfully, and with good humor.
In honor of the great man, I wanted to share this observation from his own lips, passed on to me in that molded plastic booth in Memphis thirteen years ago:
“A good song is tapping in on the heartbeat of society. Whether it’s a personal experience or the human experience. There has to be a reason why you are making a statement. Nothing is new, you just have to figure out a special way of saying it.”
DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.