Ain't no sunshine when he's gone: Isaac Hayes. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
I once met Isaac Hayes, who died yesterday, at a new music showcase in London about five years ago. Hayes was the special guest introducing the various fledgling acts. After the show, I spotted him at the bar and plucked up the courage to ask him for an autograph - something I have only done about five times in my life. As it tends to when you meet your heroes, time slowed down to a comical pace. Hayes grinned down at me as I spelt my name for him. Then he opened his mouth. With the trademark baritone growl well known to both Stax and Southpark fans, he joked, "You want me to write a novel, doncha?"
This story has entered into family legend. Hayes isn't just my hero - he is universally loved by my clan, raised as we were on a diet of Wattstax, Blaxploitation movies and Hot, Buttered Soul. As a kid I was fascinated by Hayes' various Bowie-like personas for different albums - the PVC-trench coated Shaft character from his 1971 score, the loverman of Hot Buttered Soul (complete with super-sized gold chain) and the righteous image of Hayes in a dashiki and shades as Black Moses.
The lasting image I'll always have of him is his introduction at Wattstax - the label's epic 1973 concert. Coming on in a brightly coloured blanket and hat to the theme from Shaft, the crowd cheer when the hat is removed to reveal that trademark shaved head. They go even more ballistic when the blanket comes off. It's no surprise when, underneath, a topless Hayes is sporting a floor-length loosely linked gold chain getup (he even made his civil rights statements in super-style). Cool as a cucumber, Hayes proceeds to turn the audience to mush with a sprawling version of Ain't No Sunshine.
He might have exited stage right yesterday, but there's no doubt this was a man who knew how to make an entrance. RIP, Mr Hayes - we will miss you.