By Mi-Ling Stone Poole
When I heard the news last weekend that Isaac Hayes passed away I was saddened. I don’t think people really understood who he was. Every newscast spoke of the “Shaft” soundtrack and his portrayal of the Chef on “South Park.” But he was deeper than that.
I remember going to one of his concerts in the late ‘70′s. He was definitely a sex symbol. His bald head and chains portrayed a strong, sexy, black man. He was soulful, confident, and even a little intimidating, at a time when Black Power was still at the forefront. I was in my late teens and I’ll never forget that concert. He commanded the stage and combined rap with his own unique style of rhythm and blues.
During the early ‘90′s, I met Isaac at a Teen Expo in Kansas City. After a brief discussion he agreed to join my speaker’s bureau. This is when I was told about all of the positive things that he was doing for children. He told me that his mission in life was to push world literacy and to encourage businesses and individuals to build global relationships with Africa, specifically, Ghana.
Later, I encouraged him to participate in an independent film called, “Ninth Street.” I was an associate producer on the project and we needed a known name to help push the film. After Isaac signed on Martin Sheen also played a small role in the film while he was in town shooting another project.
Isaac agreed to compose the soundtrack and to portray Tippytoe, the owner of a local cab company in Junction City, Kan. His presence in the film and the scoring of the soundtrack gave importance to the project and helped Kevin Willmott, an African American filmmaker make a name for himself. Willmott went on to write for the ‘70′s television series and the controversial film, C.S.A. to name a few.
I was an associate producer on the project and Isaac was willing to help out because he was interested in helping African Americans. That’s the kind of person he was. A down to earth, Memphis man with a kind spirit, nothing like the persona he portrayed.
Hayes was also a spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade. He told me his mission was to encourage young people to become literate. His grandmother had inspired him during his early years in Memphis and he credited her for his success as a composer, producer, and musician.
He told me that a proud moment for him was when he was named honorary Nigerian Chieftain and was enstooled as an African American King in Ghana. His goal was to bring economic development there.
The last time I saw Isaac was at the premier of “Ninth Street.” The event was held at the Gem Theatre in the historic 18th & Vine district in Kansas City, Missouri.
This was the Isaac that I knew. This is not the Isaac that is being talked about in the news. So I just wanted to give my two cents. To let people know that there was a deeper side to Isaac Hayes, the sex symbol, the soul man.
He was a man of compassion. A man who was eager to help a brother out!
I was sorry to hear the news and my heart goes out to his family and friends. But, I will be forever grateful for his participation in our little independent film.
Mi-Ling Stone Poole writes a decorating column for The Oklahoman’s Saturday Real Estate section.