That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

Death Wears Three Shoes. Two Have Fallen…


“Hey, Derrick, we got a possible session comin’ up, and it’s BIG. I don’t wanna say anything yet, ’cause I might jinx it,” my trumpet player friend, Marc Franklin, told me a couple of months ago.

I didn’t press the issue because I’ve had a number of false alarms in the past.

It turns out that it IS happening. Tomorrow, August 11, we are (were) scheduled to play behind Anthony Hamilton and other notables on the soundtrack of the upcoming movie, “Soul Men” directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Spike’s cousin,  starring Samuel L. Jackson, the late Bernie Mac, and the — Lord, help us — late Isaac Hayes! I didn’t even have a chance to be happy about the whole thing because Marc had played everything so close to his vest that I didn’t even know that I was to be part of the music to the movie. I was fired up about the chance to shoot my shot with r&b artist Hamilton.

It hurt to hear about Bernie Mac simply because he was so genuine and funny. I always loved that dude. I didn’t even know I was working on his LAST FILM!

And then today, as I was at my folks’ house trying to get my usual Sunday afternoon nap (since I don’t ever go to sleep on Saturday nights anymore), I heard Kathy screaming from the distance and getting ever closer to where I was. “Isaac Hayes just died!” I sat up.

“WHAT?!?”

“They killin’ all the black people!!” she lamented. “First Bernie, now this! I can’t take it! Who next?!?” She was pretty upset.

You know they always say these things come in threes.

So, needless to say, tomorrow’s session is cancelled. See, Isaac is in the movie, too (unbeknownst to me), and the guys who played on the “Shaft” score with him, Skip Pitts (wa wa guitar) and Willie Hall (all those drums), are in the group that I often play with, and they are doing this project. They were at the studio when they got the news, and it was, I’m told, not pretty.

Isaac is the icon of Memphis music. He was one of the pioneers who got out and did it BIG. I can say with honor that I have played with him a few times and have spoken with him. Cool dude! Truck Turner in the flesh!  And, as I found out, he was a real musician who knew the music.

I was playing in the horn section at a NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) event a couple of years ago (nearly eerily where I met Morgan Freeman). We were honoring hometown Stax Records and Memphis musicians, among them William Bell, Justin Timberlake (when he was still with Cameron Diaz), and Isaac Hayes.

At a rehearsal, he came in to check out the band. We were working on a song of his, and one of the charts had some funny voicings for the horns. Isaac came over with a smile and asked us to play what was on the paper. I was like, “Man! Isaac Hayes is right in front of me listening to me play! Don’t mess up!”

We got into it, and I thought I was killin’ it when he stopped us…

“Play that again. Just the horns,” he baritoned. (“Wow! Sounds jus’ like hisself! I kin dig it!”)

We played the section again, and he looked at me and stopped us again. “Gimme your chart.” Cool as butter.

“See this ‘B’ right here? Play a ‘B’ flat. ” He basically re-voiced the whole chord. But I thought, “Naw. That ain’t right. He must have mis-read it. This is like major, and that note ain’t even in the key. It’s gonna clash, and everbody is gonna think it was me. He IS kinda old. I’m ‘on play a ‘B’ natural.”

So we played it again. See, I’m trying to impress Isaac Hayes with my abilities.

“Stop. Did you play that ‘B’ flat like I told you?”

My black face turned red. On the inside. “Aw. My bad. I musta missed it.”

He was still smiling at me.

So we hit it again, and I played the ‘B’ flat. Man, that chord rang out as pretty and altered as some Miles or some Monk or something!!

I looked up at Isaac and he had a grin on his face wider than an Atlanta expressway! I couldn’t do anything but laugh! We spoke no words, but here is what we said:

“Isaac! Maaaannn, you know yo’ stuff!”

“Yeahhh, young buck, they ain’t just invent music five years ago. I’m thru wit’ stuff you ain’t even heard of yet!”

“I’m impressed! My daddy got your records, but that whuppin’ you just gave me raises you waaay up in my book! I ain’ gone never forget this lesson! (I break verbs an assault adjectives and murder modifiers in my thoughts.)”

“You keep on playin’. You gone be all right. Just listen to the old heads.”

All that with a glance and two smiles. Isaac Hayes is — was — thorough! And now, he’s in the hands of the Lord.

Death hurts. The living as well as the departed, maybe the living hurt more. It is cool to have a few memories, but the pain of all this is a memory, too, and they kind of all go together. Otherwise, it would be like watching the first thirty minutes of a movie and leaving before the end.

I never got the chance to even wonder what it would be like to talk to Bernie Mac at the premiere. And the fact that I have interacted with Hayes makes his passing even more poignant.

It’s just not right to be speaking of these men in the past tense.

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August 11, 2008 - Posted by | Bernie Mac, Celebrity, Current Events, Death, Hollywood, Isaac Hayes, Life, Movies, Music, News, Show Business, Soul Men, Work

5 Comments »

  1. When Markathy sent me the text that Isaac Hayes had passed away, I couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable like when Barry White died then Luther Vandross! Even though these two had some serious illnesses…it still hurt that they passed. Bernie and Isaac where shockers because know one knew anything. Dead. Just like that! Who’s next? Morgan Freeman barely escaped death…but now he’s getting a divorce, so I guess you could say it is a death of his marriage! Sad weekend indeed…

    Comment by heatherltrotter | August 11, 2008 | Reply

  2. That was quite a story Derrick. Thanks for sharing. It does seem weird referencing them in the past tense. I remember my dad showing me an Issac Hayes album cover when I was 7 years old. I thought he was a superhero because he was outfitted in heavy chains with no shirt and dark sunglasses. He was truly iconic.

    Comment by Rick T | August 11, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thanx, Trotters.
    Yeah, this is some sad stuff.
    Adam’s sin has some lonnnng, thin fingers.

    Comment by maxdaddy | August 11, 2008 | Reply

  4. Man I feel you! Remind me to tell you my Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach story — very embarrassing… oh and then there’s the Donna Summer one… and… never mind, I’m depressed now.

    I can’t believe these two brothers are gone Derrick. It’s getting really close to home in the sense of folks I know and/or are the same age as me.

    Comment by KW | August 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. Thanks.
    I will remind you to tell me.

    Yeah, it’s sad. AND it reminds me that I’m in that line — we ALL are — and getting closer and closer to the front.
    (As they say, “It’s folks dying now that ain’t never died before!” )

    And unlike McDonald’s, we can’t wait till we get to the register to figure out what we want to order!

    Comment by maxdaddy | August 12, 2008 | Reply


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