Top 10 Isaac Hayes Songs

Isaac Hayes Songs

Our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs highlight a titan of American soul music. Born in 1942, Isaac Hayes became one of the pivotal creative forces at Stax Records, working as a musician, songwriter, and record producer. His musical journey began in his youth, teaching himself to play several instruments including the flute, piano, and saxophone. His early experiences singing in his local church provided him with the confidence needed for future live performances.

After high school, despite receiving several music scholarship offers, Hayes chose to enter the workforce to support his family, balancing his job with playing music in nightclubs at night. His professional music career began to gain momentum in the late 1950s, and by the early 1960s, he started his recording career as a session musician at Stax Records.

Isaac Hayes’s collaboration with David Porter proved particularly fruitful. Together, they crafted a series of hits for artists like Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas. Sam & Dave, in particular, credited Hayes and Porter with helping to develop their distinctive sound and style, which significantly contributed to the evolution of soul and R&B music during that era.

After contributing significantly to the success of other artists, Isaac Hayes turned his focus to a solo career in 1968, marked by the release of his debut album, Presenting Isaac Hayes. This album was noted by critics for its jazzy style and an improvised feel in its music. Hayes sought to make a stronger impact with his 1969 release, Hot Buttered Soul, which came at a tumultuous time for Stax Records following the tragic loss of Otis Redding in a plane crash. Amidst the release of twenty-seven albums by the label in the wake of this tragedy, Hot Buttered Soul emerged as a standout success.

The difficulties Stax Records faced, including the loss of its back catalog to Atlantic Records, allowed Hayes more freedom to focus on his solo work. By mid-1969, with reduced responsibilities at Stax, he began releasing hit songs more frequently. By 1971, Isaac Hayes had firmly established himself not only as a singer-songwriter but also as a composer for movie soundtracks, frequently appearing on the Billboard charts. Facing financial instability at Stax, Hayes left the label to form his own record company, Hot Buttered Soul, which partnered with ABC Records for distribution.

Isaac Hayes’s legacy continues to resonate in the music industry even after his passing. He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, acknowledging his profound impact. His accolades include not only Grammy Awards but also an Academy Award for his music. Here are the top 10 Isaac Hayes songs from this legendary musician, whose work remains influential across generations.

# 10 – Hung Up On My Baby

Leading our list of the top 10 Isaac Hayes songs is the captivating ballad “Hung Up On My Baby.” Isaac Hayes, also known affectionately as Black Moses, significantly influenced the hip-hop generation that followed his prime years. Featured on his album Three Tough Guys, “Hung Up On My Baby” showcases the profound impact Hayes had on future hip-hop artists, who drew heavily from his ethos. Despite most of his songs embodying soul vibes, this track stands out as one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever released by Isaac Hayes. It was revered as one of the genre’s inspirational odes, particularly influencing the Geto Boys’ hip-hop artistry.

# 9 – Run Fay Run

Indeed, a song does not require extensive lyrics to make a profound impact, a truth well exemplified by Isaac Hayes in “Run Fay Run.” Featured on his 1974 album Three Tough Guys, this instrumental track has earned its place among the most notable Isaac Hayes songs. Remarkably, without uttering a single word, “Run Fay Run” captures the essence of Hayes’s musical brilliance and has resonated with audiences just as powerfully as his vocal tracks. This song also gained additional fame as part of the original soundtrack for the film Kill Bill Vol.1, showcasing its enduring appeal and versatility in different media contexts.

# 8 – The Look of Love

Isaac Hayes, renowned as one of the greatest songwriters in music history, also held a deep appreciation for the works of other artists. He demonstrated this by covering the iconic 1967 song by pop artist Dusty Springfield, written by the legendary songwriting duo Hal David and Burt Bacharach. This song, celebrated enough to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, was beautifully reinterpreted by Hayes. He maintained the song’s inherent sensuality while infusing it with his awe-inspiring baritone vocals, showcasing his genius in reimagining classics.

This song has also been covered by an array of other notable artists, including Bobby Womack, Diana Krall, Mary Wilson, Marilyn Scott, Gladys Knight, Kenny G, Bobbie Gentry, and Dionne Warwick, each bringing their unique style to the composition. In 1982, the band ABC added their version to the mix, featuring it on their album The Lexicon of Love, further proving the song’s enduring appeal and versatility across different musical genres and eras.

# 7 – (They Long to Be) Close to You

Number six on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs is the transformative cover of “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” Originally written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the song was first released by Richard Chamberlain in 1963. Despite its initial release, the song did not gain significant traction until The Carpenters covered it on their 1970 album Close to You. Their version soared to number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, earning widespread acclaim.

Isaac Hayes’s rendition of “(They Long to Be) Close to You” is a testament to his ability to take an existing song and elevate it into something spectacularly his own. Known for his soulful interpretations and lush arrangements, Hayes’s version stands out with its genius orchestral components and meticulous instrumentation. The song encapsulates a journey of emotions, driven by its evolving melodies and Hayes’s deep, resonant vocals, making it a true masterpiece in his discography.

This classic track has also been covered by other prominent artists, including Bobby Womack, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and The Cranberries, each adding their unique touch to the enduring song.

# 6 – Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic

“Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic”—did I count that right? Thirty-four characters make up one of the most elaborate song titles, which also boasts impressive musical depth, securing its place on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs. This track isn’t just notable for its length; the song itself extends over ten minutes. While often considered a love song, a closer analysis of its lyrics might suggest themes of heroin addiction. The song features a distinctly funky vibe, exuding a great deal of flair and confidence. This composition has been influential, with artists like Public Enemy and The Game sampling its high-pitched piano tunes.

# 5 – Do Your Thing

We all need motivation to overcome our fears and take on new challenges. Isaac Hayes’s song “Do Your Thing” is a powerful anthem of encouragement that adds a distinct flair to his 1971 album Shaft. The track is elevated by Hayes’s compelling vocals, which deliver each line with undeniable soul and charisma. His performance is not just musically inspiring but also resonates with a message of self-empowerment. Interestingly, other artists like Basement Jaxx and Moondog have also released songs titled “Do Your Thing,” each bringing their unique style to this universally empowering theme.

# 4 – Never Can Say Goodbye

“Never Can Say Goodbye” is an original composition by Clifton Davis, initially intended for The Supremes. However, Motown decided it would be a better fit for The Jackson Five, under whom the song gained significant popularity. It later achieved international fame through cover versions by artists like Gloria Gaynor and The Communards. Isaac Hayes put his unique spin on the song in 1971, aiming to surpass these previous renditions with his signature style. His version was included on his 1971 album Black Moses and successfully reached number five on the Billboard R&B chart, showcasing Hayes’s ability to reinvigorate and personalize classic tracks.

# 3 – Walk On By

Originally written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Warwick, her release soared to the top of the Cash Box Rhythm and Blues Chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording in 1965. Hayes’s version also made its mark on the charts, peaking at number thirty on the Billboard Hot 100. Notably, his rendition has been sampled by numerous artists, including Beyoncé in “6 Inch,” The Notorious B.I.G. in “Warning,” and 2Pac in “Me Against The World.” Additionally, other artists like Gloria Gaynor, Bobby Kris and the Imperials, The Stranglers, and The Average White Band have covered the song, further showcasing its enduring appeal across genres and generations.

# 2 – I Stand Accused

Number Two on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs list is the sensational hit “I Stand Accused,” featured on his album The Isaac Hayes Movement. Originally penned by Jerry Butler and also covered by Eddie Floyd, this rendition adds a new dimension to the classic. With lyrics that delve deep into the complexities of love, it transcends clichés with its creative and surreal expressions. Clocking in at over eleven minutes, the song captivates listeners with its magnificent melody and soulful tune. Even before Hayes begins to sing, his words and confession draw you in, creating an immersive experience. “I Stand Accused” stands as a true masterpiece, solidifying its place as one of Isaac Hayes’s finest songs.

# 1 – Theme from Shaft

As Isaac Hayes embarked on his solo career, he delivered a series of remarkable releases that earned him widespread acclaim and established him as an iconic singer-songwriter. One standout example is the song “Theme from Shaft,” hailed as one of the first disco tracks. With its soul and funk influences, the song gained fame as the theme for the film Shaft. Its lyrics pay homage to the character John Shaft, celebrating his coolness, sex appeal, and bravery. The song’s success was monumental, winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song just a year after its release, making Hayes the first African-American to receive this honor. “Theme from Shaft” soared to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, cementing its status as a chart-topping hit. While it reached number two on the Billboard Soul Singles chart, it fell short of surpassing “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” by the legendary Marvin Gaye.

Feature Photo: William Henderson darkfiber22, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Isaac Hayes Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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