Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes dead at 65


Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner who laid the groundwork for disco and whose "Theme From Shaft" won both Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday afternoon after he collapsed near a treadmill, authorities said. He was 65.

Hayes was about to begin work on a new album for Stax, the soul record label he helped build to legendary status. And he had recently finished work on a movie called "Soul Men" in which he played himself, starring Samuel Jackson and Bernie Mac, who died on Saturday.

The album "Hot Buttered Soul" made Hayes a star in 1969. His shaven head, gold chains and sunglasses gave him a compelling visual image.
"Hot Buttered Soul" was groundbreaking in several ways: He sang in a "cool" style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers.

Next came "Theme From Shaft," a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film "Shaft" starring Richard Roundtree.
"That was like the shot heard round the world," Hayes said in the 1999 interview.
At the Oscar ceremony in 1972, Hayes performed the song wearing an eye-popping amount of gold and received a standing ovation. TV Guide later chose it as No. 18 in its list of television's 25 most memorable moments. He won an Academy Award for the song and was nominated for another one for the score. The song and score also won him two Grammys. His career hit another high in 1997 when he became the voice of Chef, the sensible school cook and devoted ladies man on the animated TV show "South Park."

Hayes was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1 1/2. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.
Hayes wanted to be a doctor, but got redirected when he won a talent contest in ninth grade by singing Nat King Cole's "Looking Back."
He held down various low-paying jobs, including shining shoes on the legendary Beale Street in Memphis. He also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting.

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