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Greatest Festival Moments in Rock and Roll History: Wattstax 1972

Festival Moment

Isaac Hayes at Wattstax, 1972

Taking place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Wattstax was organized by Memphis-based Stax Records as a way to recognize the seventh anniversary of the Watts Riots. Isaac Hayes' set began with him being driven to the stage in a gold station wagon, as emcee Jesse Jackson hyped the crowd. The band played the theme from Shaft as Hayes walked on stage in a hood and cloak. Hayes threw the cloak off, revealing his bare chest covered in a vest of gold chains. And that's all before he sang a single note! The performance that followed was perfect hot buttered soul.

Online Video

Isaac Hayes, "Shaft," Wattstax, 1972, with introduction by Richard Pryor.

Isaac Hayes, "Rolling Down a Mountainside," Wattstax, 1972.

Wattstax, 1973.

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Search through the Rock Hall's archival collections here, including photographs, manuscripts, business records, posters, handbills, recordings, and much more from performers, bands, record label executives, recording studios, and the fans themselves!

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Rock Hall Video

Songwriters to Soundmen with Al Bell of Stax Records, Wattstax (February 2008).


These recordings can be found at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives, but you can also click the links to see if they are available at a library near you!

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