Isaac Hayes

Walk on By

Composed by Burt Bacharach / Hal David

Song Review by

Although he had penned countless hits with David Porter for soul stars like Carla Thomas and Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes earned his initial pre-Shaft fame by rearranging the classic pop tunes of the day into orchestral-scaled soul music. The debut of this style was "Walk on By," a 12-minute reworking of the Bacharach/David classic that opened Hayes' classic Hot Buttered Soul album. Originally popularized by Dionne Warwick, this song was originally a concise example of mid-'60s pop melodrama: the lyrics were full of intensely dramatic moments like "If you see me walking down the street/And I start to cry each time we meet/Walk on by" and the music created tension by offsetting dark melodic motifs with a light bossa nova-styled rhythm. Isaac Hayes took the song into another dimension by rearranging it in a way that dropped the song's pop-friendly veneer and played up the tormented emotions beneath its surface: his version started with an instrumental overture that wove strings, horns, and a chorale of voices into a devastating burst of operatic grandeur before giving way to an ominous soundscape that layered these searing orchestral touches over a plodding drums and Michael Toles' fuzzed-out electric guitar riffing. Hayes topped it off with a lush basso profundo vocal that built from a romantic murmur to gospel-styled wailing over the song's 12 minutes. The result was soulful yet cinematic, a harbinger of the lengthy symphonic soul epics that would soon be created by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Barry White. An edited version of "Walk on By" gave Hayes his first hit single as a solo artist, peaking in the Top 15 on the R&B charts and the Top 30 on the pop charts. It remains a favorite with soul fans and was later used to memorable effect on the soundtrack of the film Dead Presidents.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Hot Buttered Soul 1969 Stax / Universal 12:00
No Image 1980 Stax
No Image 1982
Various Artists
The Best of Isaac Hayes, Vol. 1 1986 Decca / Stax / Universal 12:02
Isaac's Moods: The Best of Isaac Hayes 1988 Stax
Greatest Hit Singles 1991 Concord / Fantasy
The Very Best of Isaac Hayes [1993] 1993 Warner Music 4:33
Greatest Hits 1995 Stax / Universal Music 4:32
Dead Presidents 1995
Original Soundtrack
Capitol/EMI Records / Capitol 4:34
Collection 1995 VSOP 12:04
Classic Funk, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Import 12:02
Greatest Jazz & Soul Singers 1997
Various Artists
ZYX Music 4:35
More from the Bacharach Songbook 1998
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 4:35
The Best of Isaac Hayes [Ace] 1998 Ace 4:33
Ultimate Collection 2000 Hip-O 4:32
The Love Songs of Burt Bacharach [Universal] 2000
Various Artists
Sammel 4:32
UK Stax Singles, 1968-1975: Magical Moments in Soul Music History 2000
Various Artists
Stax Story 2000
Various Artists
Stax 4:34
The Man!: The Ultimate Isaac Hayes 1969-1977 2001 Stax 12:02
Old School Love Songs, Vol. 7 2005
Various Artists
Thump Records 4:34
Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It? 2005 Stax 12:03
Soul Legends 2006 Universal Distribution 12:50
Stax 50: A 50th Anniversary Celebration 2007
Various Artists
Concord / Stax 4:35
Sweet Soul Music: The Best of Stax 2007
Various Artists
UMVD 4:34
The Very Best of Isaac Hayes [2007] 2007 Fantasy / Stax 4:33
Live at Montreux 2005 2007 Eagle Eye Media
Forever Isaac Hayes 2007 Madacy 12:04
No Image 2008
Various Artists
The Stax Story [Concord] 2008
Various Artists
Concord 4:34
No Image 2008 Universal Distribution 4:33
Billy Connolly's Route 66: Music from and Inspired by the ITV Series 2011
Various Artists
UMTV 4:33
Stax Classics 2017 Decca / Stax 4:33
No Image
Various Artists
Capitol 4:34
blue highlight denotes editor's pick