The other night, I was listening to NPR radio and I heard Isaac Hayes’ voice during snips of an interview. Parts of some of his songs were also played along with Carla Thomas, daughter of the legendary Rufus Thomas. The Memphis music sounds came flourishing back to me.
Hayes’ most memorable song for me is “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” He made great songs and his entire Hot Buttered Soul album is truly historic and marks a certain era. But the Phoenix song was long and detailed as he contemplates and then leaves his cheating woman. This time the shoe is on the other foot and this is a man who is in deep pain after he has forgiven her over and over again.
The first line starts, ‘By the time I get to Phoenix, she will be rising.’ He is driving and has left her a letter to say that it is over. Years ago, I was with some Houston friends and we drove down to Galveston. We listened to Isaac Hayes belt out this song and the images were so vivid as he created a mental movie for us.
I am sure it lasted during most of the short trip because it lasts for over 18 minutes. If it had to be a testimonial in a divorce case, I feel certain that the judge would rule on his behalf as he sings of his anguish.
Little did I know that years later, I would name my main character Phoenix in A Golden Leaf in Time Revised and all of its subsequent novels in the series.
The city of Phoenix was obviously a place of refuge for the singer. For me, Phoenix is like the phoenix-bird who continually renews herself and shakes the dust off her feet when life has let her down. She keeps on getting up and trying again though her heart is heavy.
She is much like Isaac Hayes in the song because she too keeps it moving. If you have time, push play and listen to one of the greatest R&B singers of all time!
Lynn M. June 2, 2019