Memphis soul legend Isaac Hayes dead at 65

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) – Soul music legend Isaac Hayes died early Sunday afternoon, according to Shelby County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Steve Shular. Hayes was 65.

A Shelby County sheriff’s deputy responded to Hayes’ home after his wife found him on the floor near a treadmill inside his home.

Hayes was taken to Baptist East Hospital in Memphis, where he was pronounced dead at 2:08pm.

“Our emergency room team’s efforts to resuscitate him were not successful, and our hearts go out to his family and legion of fans worldwide,” said Baptist Memorial Spokesperson Valerie Robilio.

Deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department are continuing their investigation into Hayes’ death, but they believe no foul play was involved.

According to Hayes’ official Web site, the music icon was set to play himself in a musical comedy starring comedian Bernie Mac, who died Saturday.

Hayes was raised by his maternal grandparents in Covington, Tennessee, after his mother died and his father left the family when Hayes was an infant. He moved to Memphis at age 6.

Hayes planned 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. Hayes also played gigs in rural Southern juke joints where at times he had to hit the floor because someone began shooting.

A self-taught musician, he was hired in 1964 by Stax Records of Memphis as a backup pianist, working as a session musician for Otis Redding and others. He also played saxophone.

Hayes began writing songs, establishing a songwriting partnership with David Porter, and in the 1960s they wrote such hits for Sam and Dave as “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Soul Man.”

All this led to his recording contract.

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. He prefaced the song with “raps,” and the numbers ran longer than three minutes with lush arrangements.

In the early 1970s, Hayes laid the groundwork for disco, for what became known as urban-contemporary music and for romantic crooners like Barry White. And he was rapping before there was rap. “The rappers have gone in and created a lot of hit music based upon my influence,” he said. “And they’ll tell you if you ask.”

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.

In 1972, he won another Grammy for his album “Black Moses” and earned a nickname he reluctantly embraced. Hayes composed film scores for “Tough Guys” and “Truck Turner” besides “Shaft.”

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.

Hayes was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. “I knew nothing about the business, or trends and things like that,” he said. “I think it was a matter of timing. I didn’t know what was unfolding.”

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.” But Hayes angrily quit the show in 2006 after an episode mocked his Scientology religion. “There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” he said.

Hayes was the voice of Nickelodeon’s “Nick at Nite” and had radio shows in New York City (1996 to 2002) and then in Memphis.

He was in several movies, including “It Could Happen to You” with Nicolas Cage, “Ninth Street” with Martin Sheen, “Reindeer Games” starring Ben Affleck and the blaxploitation parody “I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka.”

Said Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis: “Isaac Hayes was our emissary to the world for over four decades. His music and his love of his fellow man transcended all racial boundaries. His contributions to this city and its culture were many, and his friends were even more numerous.”

R.I.P., We have lost so many greats this year alone…

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~ by redspyda on August 10, 2008.

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