17 August 2008

Sunday 17 August 08 Chat

Being built for comfort not speed the Olympics aren't generally my choice of viewing. However the performances in Beijing over the past few days have been so inspiring that they have captured even my imagination.
First came the water hero that is Michael Phelps and that astonishing physique. Eight gold medals in these games and almost every conceivable record broken including that of Mark Spitz.
Phelps has now won more medals than many of the
smaller countries competing and pretty soon his earnings too are likely to outstrip those of small nations.
But consistent and outstanding though Phelps' achievements are, they have surely been beaten in the popular imagination by Usain Bolt ('Lighting Bolt' for those not yet in the know) in his destruction, his complete and joyful demolition of the world record in the blue riband athletics event, the men's 100m sprint.

Contrasting with the palpable anxiety of his co-finalist countrymen, the lanky Jamaican clearly loves the competition, the environment and the pressure - a performer who responds so well to the big occasion that he does only enough to beat the opposition and then slows down.
Before he crosses the line.
In an Olympic final.
And coincidentally still breaks the world record.

What is this man capable of when he really tries? When he matures, has greater race experience and the wind is in his favour? What will he be capable of then? And just as excitingly, who will raise their game to equal his in coming years?
Ironically many US TV channels didn't show the race, blue riband or not. Perhaps written off the schedules because the American finalists looked unlikely to win, it's the BBC's race recording that has circled the world and BBC commentator and former Olympic champion Michael Johnson's stunned reaction to Bolt's win that has summarised the incredulous response to the achievement.
With a further demonstration of his remarkable abilities to come it's certain the whole world will be watching
the 200m sprint final later in the week. And that Lighting Bolt, with his easy arrogance and undoubted charisma, soon out-earns even Michael Phelps.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The great Isaac Hayes died this week of a stroke aged only 65.
An orphan from rural Tennessee, he was raised by his grandparents, taught himself piano, organ and saxophone and in 1964 moved to Memphis to become a session musician for the Stax label.
He took over from Booker T Jones to play keyboards on his first paid session recordings, for Otis Redding.
With songwriter David Porter he composed a range of classic hits for Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor and others, including
Soul Man, Hold on I'm Coming, B-A-B-Y and When Something's Wrong with my Baby.
His 1969 album, Hot Buttered Soul, took soul music in a new direction, the musical impact matched by the visual impact of the album showing Hayes' signature bald head, bare chest and quantities of gold jewellery.

Two years later and not considered for the lead acting role, his Theme from Shaft won a Grammy and two Oscars, became an icon for the 70s and made Isaac Hayes a household name and the first African American to have a certified Platinum record.
After the Grammy-winning
Black Moses album of 1972, he became a published author, appeared in some three dozen films, toured extensively and for several years provided the voice of Chef in the subversive animated series, South Park.
He was a great talent and musical change-maker who will be remembered fondly for his outrageous appearance and his educational legacy in rural Ghana where he was a crowned King.
His family has issued the following statement;
"We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and love from Isaac’s dear friends, colleagues and fans from every corner of the world, and we thank each and every one of them for their kind thoughts and prayers. While he was an iconic figure to many, to us he was husband, father and friend. We will ever miss his love, wisdom, humor and the familiar comfort of his voice."

No comments: