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Singer, Songwriter Isaac Hayes Dies


Legendary soul singer, composer and actor Isaac Hayes died Sunday, August 10, at his home in East Memphis, Tennessee. He was 65. Hayes was found unconscious on the floor near a treadmill that was left operating. VOA's Doug Levine has more on the man whose musical credits include an award-winning soundtrack.

With his 1971 motion picture soundtrack Shaft, Isaac Hayes became the first African-American composer to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, Theme From Shaft. His score also earned him a Golden Globe Award and two Grammy Awards.

Born in Covington, Tennessee, Isaac Hayes began singing in church at age five. He soon taught himself to play piano, organ, flute and saxophone. Hayes didn't have to venture far from home to find his first big break in the music industry. He launched his recording career as a session musician and songwriter with the Memphis-based Stax Records, one of the leading R&B labels of that era. Hayes was noted for co-writing a string of hit singles while at Stax, including the Sam and Dave classic, "Soul Man."

Hayes made a less-than-stellar first impression with his debut album Presenting Isaac Hayes. It was largely improvised and jazz-oriented. Appearing on the cover of his next album, Hot Buttered Soul, with a shaved head, sunglasses and thick gold jewelry, Hayes earned critical acclaim for his reinterpretations of the pop classics "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Walk On By." His arrangements combined soul, jazz, rock and gospel, and featured Isaac's signature deep bass-baritone vocals.

Hayes' recording career flourished in the 1970s. His 1972 album Black Moses brought him his third Grammy Award, and was one of his seven albums to reach the Top 40 that decade.

Hayes also had a passion for acting, and when he wasn't tied down to the recording studio, he appeared in dozens of films and television shows. One of his most famous roles was the voice of "Chef" in the animated TV series South Park. His most recent role was alongside Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac in the upcoming film Soul Men.

Hayes was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002. In 2005, Concord Records released an Isaac Hayes retrospective on CD and DVD, featuring his 1972 performance at the Los Angeles soul music festival Wattstax.

Isaac Hayes was married four times and is also survived by several children and grandchildren.

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