Sunday, August 10, 2008

A weekend of sadness

It has been a shocking weekend to say the least: Bernie Mac died Saturday morning at age 50, then Issac Hayes died Sunday at age 65.

Bernie Mac was not an overnight success, at least in the eyes of mainstream America. They knew him either from his television show or appearing in the two "Oceans" movies.

Issac Hayes reached mainstream America's consciousness after he won the 1971 Academy Award for best soundtrack. But he was more than the singer of "Shaft" or the voice of Chef in the obnoxious "South Park."

Black America knew both men, and knew them well.

Mac (1957-2008) accurately brought a slice of Black life to stage, screen and television. He closed "The Original Kings of Comedy" (2000), where he hilariously explained the difference between a noun and a verb. Another bit he did was the prelude to "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired from 2001 to 2006 on Fox, that featured him as an uncle raising his sister's three children. It won a Peabody Award in 2002. He was the rougher side of the Black father figure that Bill Cosby earlier protrayed on television, again showing that Blacks can be more than warm and fuzzy, yet caring.

Hayes (1942-2008) co-wrote "Soul Man" then embarked on a successful solo career, beginning with his 12-minute cover of "Walk On By," part of his four-song debut album, "Hot Buttered Soul" in which only one cut was shorter than five minutes. I discovered him back in the early 1970s on a now-defunct Detroit jazz station -- Hayes' songs were too long for the local AM Black stations at the time.

Hayes followed this classic with "The Issac Hayes Movement," another four-cut masterpiece, which featured a cover of the Beatles' "Something," and ". . . To Be Continued" before he released the "Shaft" soundtrack, when the rest of America finally discovered this man.

As great as these two men were, will they get the type of tributes they deserved.

Will Mac get the lengthy tributes that usually afforded White comedians when they leave for their eternal reward? Will Hayes be honored for his musical contributions as White musicians and singers do when they go?

The Clarence Thomas hearings sadly overshadowed Redd Foxx's passing.

More was said about Richard Pryor's use of profanity than his comedic genius -- it was just the opposite for George Carlin when he died earlier this summer.

Little was said about the late Robin Harris, who like Mac, also died suddenly and way too young. His "BeBe's Kids" told how unruly children can be without proper guidance and supervision.

Topper Carew's excellent documentary, "We Don't Die: We Multiply -- The Robin Harris Story" features Mac and other Black comics. It is a must-have DVD, and can be ordered on

Hayes, who was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, was more than Shaft -- one of his best songs was "Part-Time Love" on his "Black Moses" double album. He also appeared in several movies, starring in "Truck Turner" and was a popular recurring character on "The Rockford Files," calling James Garner "Rockfish."

"Isaac Hayes is Memphis," Memphis TV reporter Kontji Anthony told CNN Sunday. He leaves to mourn and cherish his memories a wife and 12 children.

"My heart really goes out to his wife and (their child)," comic and friend Steve Harvey said on CNN. Mac married his high school sweetheart -- she, their daughter and their granddaughter are his survivors.

Mac and Hayes will be truly missed by White America, but Black America will miss them more because we knew them longer and best.

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