ASSOCIATED PRESS: MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Isaac Hayes, the pioneering singer, songwriter and musician whose relentless ”Theme From Shaft” won Academy and Grammy awards, has been found dead at home. He was 65. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office says a family member found Hayes unresponsive near a treadmill on Sunday. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis. The cause of death was not immediately known. 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. 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.”
ISAAC HAYES: Scoring Shaft
NEW YORK TIMES: Isaac Hayes was born Aug. 20, 1942, in a tin shack in rural Covington, Tenn., to a mother who died early and a father who left home. He was raised largely by his grandparents, and worked in cotton fields while going to school. He began playing in local bands, and by early 1964, when he was 21, he was working as a backup musician for Stax. His first session was with Otis Redding. Soon he began writing songs with David Porter, and their music — numbers like “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” for Sam and Dave, and “B-A-B-Y” for Carla Thomas — came to embody the Stax aesthetic. It was tight, catchy pop, but full of sweat and grit, a proudly unpolished Southern alternative to Motown.
By the late 1960s Mr. Hayes was stepping out as a solo artist, and his reputation grew as much for his dress as for his music. The cover of his 1969 album, “Hot Buttered Soul,” pictured him in customary style: shaved head, dark shades, gold chains, bare chest. The album was similarly eccentric, consisting of just four songs, including lengthy, elaborate versions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” and Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” It also included spoken segments that he called raps, and the album became one of his biggest hits, reaching No. 8.
When he was approached to create the score to “Shaft,” one of the first blaxploitation films, Mr. Hayes said he also wanted the lead role. The part went to Richard Roundtree, but Mr. Hayes recorded the music anyway. It was done in four days with several members of the Bar-Kays, one of the house bands at Stax. With a cymbal pattern borrowed from Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” which Mr. Hayes had arranged, the song layered funk guitars, horns, woodwinds and strings, prefiguring disco. It became a No. 1 hit. MORE
ERIC BURDON: Hold On I’m Comin’