Isaac Hayes, the pioneering singer, songwriter and musician (and rapper before it was officially called "rap") whose “Theme From Shaft” earned him both Academy and Grammy awards, was found dead at his home earlier today. He was 65.
According to the Associated Press, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office says a family member found Hayes unresponsive near a treadmill today. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at Baptist East Hospital in Memphis. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Like so many great American soul artists, Hayes started out singing in the church from a very young age. He taught himself how to play piano, organ, and saxophone and before launching his own career in Memphis at Stax-Volt (whose treatment would later cause him much stress), he worked behind the scenes at the label as a writer for others. His work there included co-writing the big hit "Soul Man" for Sam and Dave. 1967 was the year Hayes began his solo career with the debut Presenting Isaac Hayes, followed two years later by the commercially successful landmark album Hot Buttered Soul.
The albums kept coming, including The Isaac Hayes Movement and To Be Continued, but it was the 1971 release of the score to the movie Shaft that would push him to the top. The score also earned him an Academy Award (for Best Score) and a Grammy. He continued his creative streak that year with
the amazing Black Moses album. In 1973 he released Joy and the next year composed two soundtracks, Truck Turner (a film that he also starred in) and Tough Guys.
In recent years Hayes became familiar to a whole new generation after he became the voice of the character Chef in the TV show South Park, which he abruptly quit after taking offense to an episode about Scientology, which he took personally. Hayes credited the church of Scientology with helping him get off drugs and getting his life back on track, and he was a full time member.