Isaac Hayes, the pioneering singer, songwriter and musician whose relentless “Theme From Shaft” won Academy and Grammy awards, has been found dead at his home in Memphis. He was 65.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office says a family member found Hayes unresponsive near a treadmill today (Aug. 10). 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.
Indeed, next to James Brown, Hayes was one of producers’ favorite targets when it comes to sampling. Not that he minded.
“I remember ‘Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me’ by the Geto Boys [which samples Hayes’ “Hung Up on My Baby”] — that was a biggie for them,” he told Billboard in 2005. “I liked the tracks by Dr. Dre, Erykah Badu and Ashanti. And it goes way, way back. Big Daddy Kane told me, ‘Brace yourself — they’re gonna hit your stuff real hard.’ They did. They’re still hitting it!”
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.” However, his time on the hit program ended in controversy in 2006, when Hayes, a longtime Scientologist, asked for his release due to “recent episodes and press that have embarked upon what he feels are inappropriate ridicule of religious communities.”
Hayes re-signed with Stax when the label relaunched in 2006, but did not make a new studio album for the company.
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