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Mark Lennihan/AP

Isaac Hayes Dead at 65

August 11, 2008 11:26 AM
by Rachel Balik
Award-winning singer and actor Isaac Hayes died at his home on Sunday, August 10. As of Monday morning, the cause of death had not yet been determined.

30-Second Summary

Academy and Grammy Award-winning musician Isaac Hayes was found dead by his wife Sunday, lying next to a treadmill that was still running. The cause of death for the accomplished singer and actor is still unknown; although he was recovering from a stroke, friends said he was doing well. Hayes was also working up until the time of his death, and will appear in a film set for release this November with Samuel Jackson and the recently deceased Bernie Mac.
Although Hayes had his share of chart-topping hits, “his approach was generally more suited to the album format, where he could stretch out and set a mood with his soulful, rap-filled symphonettes,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Web site says. He also had done some unconventional work, writing a score for an experimental film for Norman Mailer before penning and performing his Oscar-winning song “Theme from ‘Shaft.’”
He wanted to star in “Shaft” as well, but he made history anyway, as he was the first African-American to win an Oscar for music. Some film roles did follow, and late in his career, he provided for the voice for Chef on the cartoon “South Park,” until a conflict with the series creators over a satirical episode about Scientology caused him to leave the show.

Hayes is survived by his wife and 12 children.

‘Isaac Hayes, 65, a Creator of ’70s Soul Style, Dies’

Hayes’s music career began as a back-up musician for Stax Records in Tennessee. The first session he ever played was with Otis Redding, and soon he was writing his own music and doing collaborations. The New York Times credits Hayes with defining the sound of Stax Records: “tight, catchy pop, but full of sweat and grit, a proudly unpolished Southern alternative to Motown.” Hayes grabbed attention with his 1969 album, “Hot Buttered Soul,” but wider fame came when he wrote the theme song for the blaxploitation movie “Shaft,” for which he won an Academy Award. Hayes also appeared in several films, and in later years, he became well known as the voice of Chef on the animated comedy “South Park.” Hayes continued to work until the time of his death, although he had recently suffered from a stroke. He will appear in “Soul Men,” a movie set for release in November.

Background: Hayes’s Career and Awards

Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Throughout his career, he worked with some of the greatest performers in soul music and produced a series of chart-topping hits, but “his approach was generally more suited to the album format, where he could stretch out and set a mood with his soulful, rap-filled symphonettes.” In addition to his wealth of entertainment accomplishments, he was crowned as a king in Ghana in 1994 to commemorate his humanitarian efforts there.

When “Theme from ‘Shaft’” won the Oscar for Best Song in 1971, Hayes became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for music. However, “Shaft” was not Hayes’s first foray into the movies; he had previously written a score for Norman Mailer’s experimental film, “Maidstone.” Hayes had dreamed of being an actor, and had actually sought the lead role in “Shaft” for himself. He appeared in a few movies after Shaft, primarily other “blaxploitation” films, says

Hayes was also a staple on the popular TV show, “South Park,” supplying the voice of the wise but somewhat inappropriately ardent Chef. The show was infamous (and wildly popular) for mercilessly mocking religious groups, celebrities and political figures, but after a 2006 episode that targeted Scientology, Hayes, a devoted Scientologist, put his foot down. “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,” Hayes said in a statement reported by The Guardian. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.” Creator Matt Stone felt that civil rights were not the issue, believing that Hayes had taken offense only when his own religion was the one under satirical scrutiny. Hayes was released from his contract.

Reference: The Man and His Music


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