(Isaac and friends around the piano at one of many of our famous
open-all-the-doors Christmas parties he helped make more festive
entertaining and having fun with the hundreds of kids and friends
and families in Memphis).
I have to say I haven't found a way to say goodbye to my good friend, Isaac.
David Porter, his long time friend and songwriting partner, would say,
"...it's hard to really tell you what's in my heart."
The world knew Isaac as a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, a Grammy and Academy Award winning
composer and musician, an icon of innovative soul and funk, a truly creative force as songwriter,
singer, producer, and actor.
Black Moses, to many.
To many others and myself he was affectionately, Bubba Lee.
To everyone, whether it was the first time you met or a lifelong relationship, he was a friend.
A man truly beloved by everyone.
And the one fact which eclipsed this, was the genuine caring and love he expressed
for each individual he met that carried far beyond the initial encounter.
For myself, to say Isaac was also a tremendous humanitarian would not begin to touch
what was in his heart and what he expressed with his work.
As a spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade, he more than campaigned for literacy and change,
he directly helped create it, opening dozens of literacy centers throughout the world.
(Indeed, he was made an honorary King in Ghana for his work in opening schools
and literacy centers in that country). His tireless work in the field of human rights
with the One Campaign, Youth for Human Rights International, The Shepherd Foundation,
and his own Isaac Hayes Foundation would be just a glimpse of this soul who gave so much.
I lived ten years in his hometown Memphis, a town I grew to love in an immense way.
Memphis. The Home of the Blues. The Birthplace of Rock & Roll. Beale Street.
Graceland. Stax. Sun. The finest barbeque in the world!
And sadly, where Dr. King passed from this world-- a fact which
has never left the city's collective consciousness.
Where streets of extreme poverty and extreme wealth still run side by side.
Where those with bright futures mingle with those without, with each group always
keenly aware of the other.
Despite all this, it was easily understood raising literacy was key to effective change.
With literacy true ability could be gained. Without it endless despair,
drugs and criminality were a simple fact of life.
I had the privilege of working with Isaac in building literacy centers in Memphis and
in introducing groundbreaking techniques to its school system. When you begin to
understand the heartbreak of high school students struggling to read at second
grade level, by rule, not the exception, then you can also begin to understand and share the
joy of completely changed individuals, by rule, not the exception, when given the tools of
how to study and learn. Multiply this by hundreds, no, thousands of kids of all ages
who have learned to read and study for the first time and you will begin to understand
what this meant to their dreams. And Isaac's dream. And indeed, all of our dreams.
They say the measure of a man can be seen by his effect on those around him.
Over the years after meeting with, talking with, walking with, laughing with his
family members, his hundreds of musician friends, business friends,
mayors and ministers, society's finest and society's forgotten,
all who were touched by this man,
I can say also, it's really hard to tell you what's in my heart.
There is simply no way to say goodbye, my friend.
You've never left us.