Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac

Monday, August 11, 2008

Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac

by Tony Dayoub

Isaac Hayes was a legend. For many it was because of his voice work as Chef in South Park. For others it was his Academy Award for Best Original Song that gained him that distinction. But for me, it was the music that he was responsible for during his time at the southern soul music label, Stax Records, that helped him stand apart.

While at Stax, he cowrote well-known hits like "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming" for famous soul duo Sam & Dave. Hayes would go on to record his own albums for Stax, first releasing the unsuccessful Presenting Isaac Hayes in 1967. Then, solidifying both his fashion and musical style, he released Hot Buttered Soul in 1969. On the cover is Hayes' bald head, wearing his soon to be trademark sunglasses and gold chain. In the album are his unique, jazz-inflected, orchestral, epic-length songs, including notably, a cover of Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" clocking in at just over 12 minutes. Dominated by horns, organs, and his smooth, deep voice, his music had crossed over, but his greatest hit was yet to come.

Composing a full feature-length score for the pioneering blaxploitation film Shaft (1971), it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score. His "Theme from Shaft" won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Soon, Hayes' look and sound led to his casting in genre films of his own, such as Truck Turner (1974), and Escape from New York (1981).

But today's audiences know him mostly from his voice work as cafeteria worker Chef on South Park. There, he garnered attention from a new generation of fans.

Hayes died yesterday, ten days short of his 66th birthday.

Recommended Films - As Composer: Shaft, Truck Turner

As Actor: Truck Turner, Escape from New York, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Hustle & Flow

Recommended Albums: Hot Buttered Soul, Shaft, Black Moses, Live at the Sahara Tahoe

Bernie Mac left us with too small a legacy yet his career signalled a tremendous potential. Famed for his stand-up comedy, he moved on to host a short-lived talk show for HBO, called Midnight Mac, in 1995. However his breakthrough was his performance, that same year, as Pastor Clever in Friday.

2001 also was a breakthrough year for him. Not only did he appear as Frank Catton in Stephen Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven remake, he starred in The Bernie Mac Show, a long-running Peabody Award-winning sitcom on Fox.

In 2003, he replaced Bill Murray as Bosley in McG's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. While making continued appearances as Catton in Ocean's Twelve (2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (2007), Mac's star continued to rise in films like Bad Santa (2003), where he had a small but important role, and with star vehicles such as Mr. 3000 (2004), and Guess Who (2005), a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in which he costarred with Ashton Kutcher. His last appearance was as used car salesman Bobby Bolivia in Transformers (2007).

An interesting coincidence, Mac just shot a film where he costars with Samuel L. Jackson as a couple of Sam & Dave-like performers. Isaac Hayes costarred. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, the film is titled Soul Men. No word yet on when to expect this one.

He died Saturday, at the age of 50.

Recommended Films - Friday, The Original Kings of Comedy, Ocean's Eleven, Charlie's Angel: Full Throttle, Mr. 3000, Guess Who, the upcoming Soul Men

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