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Isaac Hayes
Isaac hayes 1973.jpg
Isaac Hayes performs at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the annual PUSH Black Expo, October 1973
Background information
Birth name Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr.
Born (1942-08-20)August 20, 1942
Covington, Tennessee, U.S.
Died August 10, 2008(2008-08-10) (aged 65)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres R&B, funk, soul, disco
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, arranger, record producer, and actor
Instruments Piano, keyboards, vocals, saxophone
Years active 1962–2008
Labels Enterprise/Stax, ABC, Columbia Records, Pointblank
Associated acts David Porter, Booker T. & the MGs, The Bar-Kays

Isaac Lee Hayes Jr. (August 20, 1942 – August 10, 2008) was an American singer-songwriter, actor, voice actor and producer.

He was well known for his musical score for the film Shaft (1971). For the "Theme from Shaft", he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1972. He became the third African-American, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel, to win an Academy Award in any competitive field covered by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also won two Grammy Awards for that same year. Later, he was given his third Grammy for his music album Black Moses.

Early life

Isaac Lee Hayes Jr. was born in Covington, Tennessee, the second child of Eula (née Wade) and Isaac Hayes Sr. After his mother died young and his father abandoned his family, he was raised by his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Wade Sr. The child of a sharecropper family, he grew up working on farms in the Tennessee counties of Shelby and Tipton. At age five, Hayes began singing at his local church; he taught himself to play the piano, Hammond organ, flute, and saxophone.

Hayes dropped out of high school, but his former teachers at Manassas High School in Memphis encouraged him to complete his diploma, which he did at age 21. After graduating from high school, Hayes was offered several music scholarships from colleges and universities. He turned down all of them to provide for his immediate family, working at a meat-packing plant in Memphis by day and playing nightclubs and juke joints several evenings a week in Memphis and nearby northern Mississippi. His first professional gigs, in the late 1950s, were as a singer at Curry's Club in North Memphis, backed by Ben Branch's houseband.


Hayes began his recording career in the early 1960s, as a session musician for acts recorded by the Memphis-based Stax Records. He later wrote a string of hit songs with songwriting partner David Porter.

Hayes and Porter, along with Bill Withers, the Sherman Brothers, Steve Cropper, and John Fogerty were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of writing scores of songs for themselves, the duo Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, and others. In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The song "Soul Man", written by Hayes and Porter and first performed by Sam & Dave, has been recognized as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years by the Grammy Hall of Fame. It was also honored by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, by Rolling Stone magazine, and by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as one of the Songs of the Century. During the late 1960s, Hayes also began a career as a recording artist. He had several successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971). In addition to his work in popular music, he worked as a composer of musical scores for motion pictures.

In recognition of his humanitarian work there Hayes was crowned honorary king of the Ada, Ghana region in 1992. He acted in motion pictures and television, such as in the movies Truck Turner and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and as Gandolf "Gandy" Fitch in the TV series The Rockford Files (1974–1980). He voiced the character Chef from the animated Comedy Central series South Park from its debut in 1997 until 2005. His influences were Percy Mayfield, Big Joe Turner, James Brown, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and psychedelic soul groups like The Chambers Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone.

On August 5, 2003, Hayes was honored as a BMI Icon at the 2003 BMI Urban Awards for his enduring influence on generations of music makers. Throughout his songwriting career, Hayes received five BMI R&B Awards, two BMI Pop Awards, two BMI Urban Awards and six Million-Air citations. As of 2008, his songs generated more than 12 million performances.

Personal life

Hayes had 14 children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


Hayes was found on the floor of his house on August 10, 2008. He was taken to the hospital. He died there, of a stroke.


The Tennessee General Assembly enacted legislation in 2010 to honor Hayes by naming a section of Interstate 40 the "Isaac Hayes Memorial Highway". The name was applied to the stretch of highway in Shelby County from Sam Cooper Boulevard in Memphis east to the Fayette County line. The naming was made official at a ceremony held on Hayes's birth anniversary in August 2010.

Charitable work

The Isaac Hayes Foundation was founded in 1999 by Hayes. In February 2006, Hayes appeared in a Youth for Human Rights International music video called "United". YHRI is a human rights group founded by the non profit United for Human Rights. He was also involved in other human rights related groups such as the One Campaign. Isaac Hayes was crowned a chief in Ghana for his humanitarian work and economic efforts on the country's behalf.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1972 Academy Award Best Music, Original Song (For the song "Theme from Shaft") Shaft Won
Best Music, Original Dramatic Score Nominated
BAFTA Award Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Original Song (For the song "Theme from Shaft") Nominated
Best Original Score Won
Grammy Award Best Instrumental Arrangement (For the song "Theme from Shaft", arranged with Johnny Allen) Won
Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Won
1973 Grammy Award Best Pop Instrumental Performance by an Arranger, composer, Orchestra and/or Choral Leader Black Moses Won
1998 BMI Film & TV Award BMI TV Music Award (Shared with David Porter) Soul Man Won
1999 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series South Park Nominated
2006 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (Shared with cast) Hustle & Flow Nominated

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Isaac Hayes para niños

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