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Isaac Hayes | 1942-2008

Isaac Hayes of 'Shaft' fame dies

MEMPHIS — Isaac Hayes, the baldheaded, baritone-voiced soul crooner whose Theme From Shaft won Academy and Grammy awards, died Sunday (Aug. 10, 2008) after he collapsed near a treadmill at his home, authorities said. He was 65.

Mr. Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis an hour after he was found by a family member, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

With his muscular build, shiny head, gold chains and sunglasses, Mr. Hayes cut a striking figure at a time when most of his contemporaries were sporting Afros. His music, which came to be known as urban-contemporary, paved the way for disco as well as romantic crooners like Barry White.

In his spoken-word introductions and interludes in his songs, Mr. Hayes was essentially 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.

The album Hot Buttered Soul made Mr. Hayes a star in 1969. It was groundbreaking in several ways: He sang in a "cool" style unlike the usual histrionics of big-time soul singers. He prefaced the songs with "raps," and the songs ran longer than three minutes with lush arrangements.

Next came Theme From Shaft, a No. 1 hit in 1971 from the film Shaft. "That was like the shot heard round the world," Mr. Hayes said in a 1999 interview.

At the Oscar ceremony in 1972, he 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.

Also in 1972, he won a Grammy for his album Black Moses and earned a nickname he reluctantly embraced. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

"The rappers have gone in and created a lot of hit music based upon my influence," Mr. Hayes said. "And they'll tell you if you ask."

He also appeared in several movies, including Tough Guys, I'm Gonna Get You Sucka and Hustle & Flow. Additionally, he was the voice of Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite and had radio shows in New York City (1996 to 2002) and then in Memphis.

Mr. Hayes was born in 1942 in a tin shack in Covington, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Memphis. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after his mother died and his father took off when he was 1½. The family moved to Memphis when he was 6.

Isaac Hayes of 'Shaft' fame dies 08/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:21pm]
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