Our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs introduce us to an American singer-songwriter famed for his influence in the soul music scene. Born in 1942, Isaac Hayes was one of the creative forces behind Stax Records, where he served as a musician, songwriter, and record producer. Isaac Hayes’s love for music started when he was young, having him teach himself playing several instruments, including the flute, piano, and saxophone. Amazingly, Isaac Hayes would sing at his local church, helping him gain the much-needed courage for live performances later in his life. After his graduation from high school, he was offered music scholarships from several higher learning institutions, only to turn them down. Declining the offers followed his need to provide for his immediate family, working during the day and playing music in nightclubs at night.
His music career would take an upward shift when he bagged quite a number of professional gigs in the late 1950s. Isaac Hayes would begin his recording career as a session musician for acts recorded by Stax Records in the early 1960s. He later collaborated with his songwriting partner David Porter with whom the duo penned a string of hits for artists/bands such as Sam & Dave and Carla Thomas. Sam & Dave credited Isaac Hayes and David Porter for their input having them help the soul and R&B duo develop their unique sound and style.
After helping many artists with their music, Isaac Hayes embarked on his solo career, which he gave full attention to in 1968. This was marked by the release of Presenting Isaac Hayes, which music critics have described as a jazzy album whose music felt more of an improvised effort. Isaac Hayes would try to bounce back in 1969 with the release of the album Hot Buttered Soul. The album was released a short while after Stax Records had gone through a major turmoil. This was after losing Otis Redding, its biggest star, in a plane crash. Among the twenty-seven albums that were released by the record label at the time, Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes was the most successful. Stax shortly after lost its back catalog to Atlantic Records.
With Stax Records’ responsibilities minimized by mid-1969, Isaac Hayes was able to give his solo career quite some attention, releasing hit songs periodically. By 1971, Isaac Hayes was already a fully established singer-songwriter composing and singing music for movie soundtracks too. His songs would amazingly receive a mention on the Billboard charts. With Stax Records having some financial problems, Isaac Hayes collected his income leaving the record label to form Hot Buttered Soul, which now released its music through ABC Records. While Isaac Hayes might be gone, his impact in the music industry lives on, having him inducted in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. Here are the top 10 Isaac Hayes songs from this Oscar, Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter.
#10 – Hung Up On My Baby
Ushering us to the top 10 Isaac Hayes songs is the captivating ballad “Hung Up On My Baby.” Let us set the record straight by saying that Isaac Hayes, who called himself Black Moses, influenced in a great way the hip-hop generation to come after his prime years. Listening to “Hung Up On My Baby” from Isaac Hayes’s album, Three Tough Guys makes you realize how hip-hop artists of the future drew some heavy ethos from Isaac Hayes. The song serves as one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever released by Isaac Hayes despite most of his songs taking on the soul vibes. “Hung Up On my Baby” was regarded as one of the genre’s inspirational odes to Getto Boys hip-hop art.
#9 – Run Fay Run
You don’t need hundreds of words on a song to have it become a reputable release. However, if you choose to do that, you better be Isaac Hayes or close to what his capabilities were. Without a single word uttered, “Run Fay Run” from the 1974 album, Three Tough Guys has managed to rub shoulders with some of the best Isaac Hayes songs. The song was the original soundtrack of the film Kill Bill Vol.1.
#8 – Theme from Shaft
When Isaac Hayes was starting his solo career, he made quite a number of reputable releases, which earned him tons of accolades and respect as well as an iconic singer-songwriter. One perfect example is the song “Theme from Shaft,” which is considered to be one of the first disco songs. A soul and funk-styled release, the song is known for its use as the theme song to the film Shaft. “Theme from Shaft” has its lyrics alluding to John Shaft’s coolness, sex appeal, and bravery. A year after its release, the song won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song. Isaac Hayes was the first African-American to win the award. On the charts, Isaac Hayes’s “Theme from Shaft” was a monster making it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Soul Singles, failing to outshine “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wonna Holler)” by legendary artist Marvin Gaye.
#7- The Look of Love
While Isaac Hayes might have been one of the greatest songwriters ever to grace the music scene, he still had quite some love for other artists’ great releases. Isaac Hayes took on the 1967 iconic release from pop artist Dusty Springfield for a cover. Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Isaac Hayes retained the song’s sensuality while spicing it up with his awe-inspiring baritone vocals making him a genius in his art. Other artists to cover the song include Bobby Womack, Diana Krall, Mary Wilson, Marilyn Scott, Gladys Knight, Kenny G, Bobbie Gentry, and Dionne Warwick. ABC released their version of the song in 1982, featuring on the album The Lexicon of Love.
#6 – (They Long to Be) Close to You
Number six on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs is the hit “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” Again, Isaac Hayes took on a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, having it released initially by Richard Chamberlain in 1963. However, the song received worldwide recognition following its version by The Carpenters featured on the band’s sophomore studio album Close to You (1970). The Carpenters’ version peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.
What better way to renew your love for this song than listening to Isaac Hayes’s version, who was known for taking original songs and absolutely rocking it big? “(They Long to Be) Close to You” establishes itself as a masterpiece thanks to its genius arrangement, its ravishing orchestral component, and on-point instrumentation. The song takes you through a rollercoaster of feelings thanks to evolving melodies. Other notable cover versions of the song have been released by artists such as Bobby Womack, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and The Cranberries.
Did I count that right? Thirty-four characters for one of the most sophisticated song titles yet sublime musical values earning itself the rights to be mentioned on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs. Not only is the song’s title a lengthy one but also the song itself, having it run for ten minutes. While this strange titled song was usually viewed as a love song, a deeper look at its lyrics makes you feel like the song points towards a heroin addiction. The song features a straight-up funky vibe having it exude immeasurable flair and confidence. Multiple artists have covered and sampled this hit. Specifically, Public Enemy and The Game have sampled the song’s high-pitched piano tunes.
#4 – Do Your Thing
We all need the motivation to have us loose all our fears in doing different things in our lives. You don’t need any other motivation to do this than listening to Isaac Hayes’s song “Do Your Thing.” The song adds some glamour to his 1971 album Shaft, thanks to his ever ravishing vocals. Other artists to release a song under the same title include Basement Jaxx and Moondog.
#3 – Never Can Say Goodbye
“Never Can Say Goodbye” is an original composition by Clifton Davis, who originally penned the song for The Supremes. However, Motown felt that the song would sound better sung by The Jackson Five. The song would later receive international fame after cover releases by Gloria Gaynor and The Communards. Isaac Hayes took on the song to try to top all these performances with his golden touch in 1971. He would release the song in his 1971 album Black Moses having it peak at number five on the Billboard R&B chart.
#2 – Walk On By
Isaac Hayes can’t get enough of covers having him try to top the performances of Dionne Warwick on her song “Walk On By.” The song was originally penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne having her original release top the Cash Box Rhythm and Blues Chart. Dionne’s original version would also get a nomination for a Grammy Award for the Best Rhythm and Blues Recording in 1965. Isaac Hayes’s version also performed great on the charts, peaking at number thirty on the Billboard Hot 100. His version of the song was sampled by tons of artists, including Beyonce in “6 Inch,” The Notorious B.I.G. in “Warning,” and 2Pac in “Me Against The World.” Other artists to cover the song include Gloria Gaynor, Bobby Kris and the Imperials, The Stranglers, and The Average White Band.
#1 – I Stand Accused
Number one on our top 10 Isaac Hayes songs list is the raving hit “I Stand Accused,” featured on his album, The Isaac Hayes Movement. The song is yet another cover of an original song by Jerry Butler, also covered by Eddie Floyd. Truth be told, if love songs would still have their lyrics written with such depth, they would sound less of a cliché thanks to the creative yet surreal expressions. The song evokes raw emotions in its listeners for over eleven minutes, having its magnificent melody and tune make it quite a reputable song. Even before Isaac Hayes gets his voice to singing, you can be sure to get hooked to his words and confession. The song is a true masterpiece that has gone down as one of the best Isaac Hayes songs.
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© 2021
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