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Sweethearts with soul can get a special pre-Valentine’s Day treat Sunday when the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts hosts an evening of romantic R&B starring Isaac Hayes.

Hayes, a multi-talented composer, musician and performer, has dominated the musical landscape since the ’60s when he arrived on the scene in Memphis as the keyboardist for the Mar-Keys. In the following years, he and collaborator David Porter created music history with their stream of hits for any number of artists, especially Sam & Dave, whose renditions of the Hayes-Porter songs "Soul Man" and "Hold on I’m Comin’" have become classics.

Hayes later emerged as a soloist in his own right with personal interpretations of songs like "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Walk on By." And he virtually invented the Blaxploitation film score with "Shaft," which garnered him a Golden Globe, two Grammys and the NAACP Image Award. More recently, Hayes’ career took a dramatic turn when he stepped into the morning slot on New York’s 98.7 KISS FM, and became the voice of "Chef" on the animated television show "South Park."

On March 18, Hayes will again be honored when he’s inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

In an exclusive interview with GO Brooklyn, Hayes talked candidly about his life and career.

"I was born in Covington [Tenn.] and moved to Memphis when I was 7," Hayes said. "That was at one time the home of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis - and Isaac Hayes." There is a pause. "And Stax records."

Certainly, the importance of Stax, which would become the label of artists such as Otis Redding, Carla Thompson, Booker T. and the MG’s, Sam & Dave and Wilson Picket, cannot be forgotten. However, it was with Sam & Dave that Hayes and Porter had their greatest successes.

"Sam and Dave were our great disciples," said Hayes. "It was a great marriage for me and Dave [Porter]. We’d write all night and they’d be sitting there as we wrote. We’d learn things together."

Hayes has mixed feelings about what’s now known as Blaxploitation films.

On one hand he sees the ’70s as a "great time because a lot of us got work. A lot of us got on the screen." But he regrets that "a lot of people got upset too soon. They thought it was exploitation of our way of life. When they screamed, it died on the vine. It had to develop."

Hayes sees directors like Brooklynite Spike Lee as heirs to the Blaxploitation films of the ’70s; although, they arrived after a "big gap."

When Hayes was first approached for the spot on KISS-FM, he said, he was reluctant to come onboard.

"I had no experience as a DJ," Hayes said. "But finally I gave in."

Likewise with his role as the voice of Chef on the cartoon "South Park," which airs on cable’s Comedy Central network.

"At first I thought it was a Disney," he said. "I thought it was a joke. I said, ’If I do this I won’t be able to walk on the streets. They’ll laugh at me.’ But the ratings went through the roof." Now, Hayes’ name is a household word to a whole new generation.

Back in May, Hayes emceed Brooklyn Center’s first annual Ovation Awards at the Palm House in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The event was held to honor Brooklyn philanthropists, and Hayes himself knows something about philanthropy. His Isaac Hayes Foundation supports musical education for young people and supplies promising musicians with instruments. Hayes is also the international spokesman for the World Literacy Program. But Hayes said he had a more personal reason for contributing his talents to last May’s event.

"I’m in the area. I should get involved," he said.

This February, Hayes will be back in Brooklyn, and he’ll be singing. Hayes believes that audiences aren’t the same since Sept. 11, and will tailor his Feb. 9 program to a new Brooklyn.

"After 9-11 people want to be more serious about their lives," Hayes said. "It was a wakeup call. It made people more serious about their relationships. That’s why they want to hear the soul classics and message songs."

Hayes thinks that means a resurgence of interest in the music of the ’60s. And he’s ready with "I Ain’t Never" and "Don’t Let Go."

"I’ll do what the people want - typical Isaac Hayes - soul classics that are missed by a lot of people," he said.

Get ready for a sizzling, soulful time.


The Isaac Hayes Special Valentine’s Concert at Brooklyn Center for the Performing arts is Feb. 9 at 8 pm. Tickets are $40 and $45. All performances presented by the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts are held at the Walt Whitman Theater on the Brooklyn College campus (one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues). For tickets, call the box office at (718) 951-4500, fax to (718) 951-4437 or call TicketMaster at (212) 307-7171.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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