Isaac Hayes – Black Moses

Black Moses is the fifth studio album by American soul musician Isaac Hayes. It is a double album released on Stax Records’ Enterprise label in 1971. The follow-up to Hayes’ successful soundtrack for Shaft (also a double album), Black Moses features Hayes’ version of The Jackson 5’s hit single “Never Can Say Goodbye”. Hayes’ version became a hit in its own right, peaking at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album’s title derives from Stax executive Dino Woodward’s nickname for Hayes, which he bestowed upon the musician after comparing the effects of his music on black audiences to the leadership of the biblical figure Moses. The then deeply Christian Hayes shied away from the nickname, finding it “sacrilegious”, although journalist Chester Higgins popularized the “Black Moses” nickname in an article he wrote on Hayes for Jet. Hayes came to see “Black Moses” as a symbol of black pride:

“Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses; he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery now can be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility”

Larry Shaw, head of marketing and publicity at Stax, came up with the idea to name Hayes’ LP Black Moses. He also devised, with the assistance of Bar-Kays member Ron Gordon, a gatefold album cover design which unfolded into a poster-sized image of Hayes, dressed in biblical-inspired attire as “Black Moses”.

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