Black Moses [2 Vinyl LP]
Liner notes by Chester Higgins, Senior Editor, Jet Magazine:
And so it came to pass that 28 years ago Isaac (Black Moses) Hayes was born in the town of Covington, Tenn., a snoozing little hamlet that is 38 miles, as a crow flies, from the ancient Cotton Kingdom of Memphis. He was the second born of Isaac, Sr. and Eula Hayes, and already on his black and sweating brow there was a mark of prophecy. His mother died at an early age and the male child Hayes never really knew his dad of whom he sadly recalled not long ago: "I haven't seen him since I was one-and-a-half years old."
And so it fell the hard and beleaguered lot of his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Willie (Bushia) Wade, Sr., to care for, nurture and suckle the budding young prophet and his sister, Willette Rankin, who is one year older. And though their heart and spirit were more than willing, the resources of the unschooled Wades were meager to an extreme. So despite welfare aid the family received during the early years of his life, young Hayes was hard put to fill with the staff of life, the aching and empty void that was his belly, or to hide his shameful nakedness with the hand-me-down rags donated by loving and God-fearing neighbors who yet believe that cheerful givers are blessed and some day will see the Kingdom of Heaven.
There was abroad in that land in those times even as to this very day, a chilling pathology that loosed the blind and mindless forces of racial hatred and bigotry. Black Moses and the chosen people oppressed in the Kingdom of Cotton, were its especial targets. Never officially voiced or sanctioned by the Pharoahs, the sanguine practice was, nevertheless, slyly winked at by them. It was to claim, ultimately, one of the chosen people's greatest leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The broad reaches of the cotton fields, where tall, green plants, their white fluffy heads gently nodding in the hot and humid breezes, became the bullrushes, paradoxically, "hiding" Moses and his oppressed people from the immediate genocidal clutches of the racist and xenophobic Pharoahs. The fields stretched, in broad concourse, to the murky waters of the River Nile (Mississippi River) of which the oppressed people had fashioned many a joyful and plaintive song unto the Lord.
The youthful Black Moses, only 11 years old, stood in the fields, daydreaming, wondering, listening, awestruck by the wonders of nature–the birds of the air, the fowl, insects, animals of the fields, woods; the fish of the streams. Working at the arduous job of picking cotton, a job he was in the fields to do, was not on his mind. And as his people dragged their hot, heavy bags down the endless rows of cotton, young Moses' soul would burst with song, startling fellow cottonpickers. But were they grateful for his diverting serenades? No. They did not say, "Behold, the blessings of the Lord are upon us." Instead, they spat upon him and reviled him, calling him "that good for nothin' boy."
But the manifest destiny of Black Moses would not be denied. His high school teachers, behold, became the collective Pharoah's daughter who saved the dropout Hayes, helping him to secure a diploma at age 21, years after his class had graduated. His intense interest in girls, and nagging shame at his ragged physical appearance combined earlier to rip him from the ranks of academe.
A succession of piddling jobs claimed his attention, but not for long. The Lord manifested Himself in a burning bush and although Moses refused to look, the Master's face became that of Stax Records. Young Hayes, who taught himself to play the piano, was working a night club set with members of the Mar-Keys when he got the call from Stax President Jim Stewart to work a recording set with the late singing star, Otis Redding, "King of the Memphis Sound." This led to regular work at the studio as a background musician, then to the excitement of arranging and then to teaming up with David Porter to become one of the most prolific R&B songwriting teams in modern history. They turned out tunes for the "Queen of the Memphis Sound", Carla Thomas, Baby and Let Me Be Good to You; for Johnnie Taylor, I Had A Dream and I've Got To Love Somebody's Baby, a tune that kicked off Johnnie Taylor's fabulous career. You Don't Know Like I Know really hit big, then Hold On, I'm Coming established the young tunesmiths as topflight. One of Hayes's biggest tunes is Precious, Precious, which became a million-plus seller for singer Jackie Moore. They had it made when they met Sam and Dave, writing their big hits, I Take What I Want, etc.
Black and able Stax Executive Vice Pres. Al Bell gave Black Moses his first opportunity to become a recording star. And it came to pass that one night following a champagne party at Stax, white bassist Duck Dunn (of Booker T. and the M.G.s) and Hayes were sitting around the studio after everyone had left, when Bell walked in and said, "Come, Isaac, I'm going to record you." And so that night, their stomachs warmed by champagne, with Dunn on bass, Al Jackson (also of the M.G.s) on drums and Hayes at the piano with Bell handling the controls, they turned out an LP entitled, Introducing Isaac Hayes. The album was a modest success, but it kicked the door open for Black Moses to enter the ranks of the recording artists. The rest is history. Black Moses has also been bountiful and replenished the earth with four children (he has been married twice).
His nearly nine minute monologue in the song By The Time I Get To Phoenix, which became part of an LP, Hot Buttered Soul, electrified the industry. It is a hard, soulful, funky rap that sermonizes the sometimes bittersweet relationship between man and wo-man. This LP was followed by another, The Isaac Hayes Movement, all winning gold records and helping further to solidify Black Moses' position as a major prophet.
And when he comes into view, his raiment is so bright, so colorful, so kaleidoscopic, he can be looked upon only by indirection. It is a raiment that embodies the colors of hot pinks, purples, reds. The fashions feature a bare torso under a long flowing cape, a big floppy hat cover a bald and shining head; his legs and hips encased in salmon pink panty hose. For as a man dresseth, so is he.
Black Moses of the famous "Memphis Sound" is indeed a soulful prophet of the Chosen People, a willing servant of the Lord, and one helluva entertaining genius, to boot.
Arranged By – Isaac Hayes, Johnny Allen (tracks: A1, A3 to D2)
Arranged By [Background Vocals] – Pat Lewis
Art Direction – David Krieger, Graffiteria, The
Backing Band [Rhythm] – Bar-Kays, The* (tracks: A2, D3), Isaac Hayes Movement, The*
Backing Vocals [Background Voices] – "Hot" "Buttered" & "Soul"*, Isaac Hayes (tracks: A1, B1, C1b)
Bass Guitar – Ronald Hudson
Bongos, Congas – Gary Jones (3)
Cover [Packaging] – AGI (4)
Creative Director [Creative Direction] – Larry Shaw
Drums, Tambourine – Willie Hall
Edited By – Daryl Williams
Electric Piano – Lester Snell
Engineer – Daryl Williams, Dave Purple, Eddie Marion, Henry Bush, Ron Capone, William Brown*
Engineer [Re-Mix] – Dave Purple, Isaac Hayes, Ron Capone
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Charles Pitts*
Liner Notes – Chester Higgins
Photography By – Joel Brodsky
Piano – Sidney Kirk
Piano, Vibraphone [Vibes], Organ, Electric Piano – Isaac Hayes
Producer – Isaac Hayes