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"The world has lost a true creative genius and a passionate humanitarian, but his indelible legacy will remain ever present."
—-Neil Portnow on Isaac Hayes
BLACK MOSES TO PROMISED LAND
Memphis Soul Legend Passes at the Age of 65

Isaac Hayes, the man who defined '70s soul and funk, passed away yesterday in his East Memphis, TN, home at the age of 65.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said that the performer's wife, Adjowa, found him collapsed near a treadmill at their home and he was pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death was not known.

With his booming, come-hither bass-baritone and flamboyant wardrobe, which included gold chains long before rappers started wearing 'em, Hayes was the personification of the super-macho, street characters of the so-called blaxploitation films of the era. In his famed theme song to 1971's Shaft, he famously described the title character: “Who’s a black private dick/Who’s a sex machine to all the chicks?...He’s a complicated man/But no one understands him but his woman.”

The "Theme from Shaft" won an Academy Award, but Hayes' career included being one of the principal songwriters and performers for the famed Memphis label Stax Records. Later, he became famous to a whole new generation as Chef on South Park.

Hayes was born Aug. 20, 1942, in a tin shack in rural Covington, TN., to a mother who died early and a father who left home. He was raised largely by his grandparents, and worked in cotton fields while going to school. He began playing in local bands, and by early 1964, when he was 21, he was working as a backup musician for the likes of Otis Redding for Stax.

He began writing with David Porter, producing hits like “Soul Man” and Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” for Sam and Dave, and “B-A-B-Y” for Carla Thomas, tight, a gritty, unpolished southern-fried alternative to Motown's polished pop-soul.

By the late '60s, Hayes made his mark as a solo artist, with a flamboyant style that included shaved head, dark shades, gold chain and bare, blistening sweat, as on the cover of his '69 album, Hot Buttered Soul. That Top 10 album included just four songs, including elongated jams of Bacharach and David's "Walk on By" and Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." It also included spoken segments that he called raps.

Hayes originally wanted to play the lead role in Shaft which went to Richard Roundtree, but settled for recording the soundtrack with the Bar-Kays, one of the Stax house bands. It produced a #1 hit in "Theme from Shaft."

In 1971, he followed up the Shaft soundtrack with the ambitious double-album Black Moses, which folded out to reveal a portrait of Hayes in crucifix form.

In the mid-’70s, Hayes’ finances collapsed and his music turned explicitly to disco. He acted in several films, including Escape From New York in 1981 and the spoof I’m Gonna Git You Sucka in 1988. His musical career revived in 1997 when he began playing Chef on South Park. A Scientologist, he quit the show in 2006, claiming he had been offended by an episode that ridiculed Tom Cruise and other prominent Scientologists. He also had a radio show in New York in the 1990s.

Despite health problems in recent years, he continued to tour and work in film, with a role playing himself in Soul Men, a comedy set for release in November, starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late comedian Bernie Mac, who also passed away over the weekend.

Hayes, who was recuperating from a stroke, had been married three times. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their son, Nana, and 11 other children.

Said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow of the three-time Grammy winner: "Isaac Hayes was a true renaissance man—singer, songwriter, producer, session musician, actor, activist and more. After laying the groundwork for the Memphis soul sound through his work with Stax Records, his groundbreaking theme song and score for the movie Shaft cemented his status as a musical icon. He was actively involved with our Memphis Chapter, sharing his creativity with established professionals and up-and-coming musicians alike. The world has lost a true creative genius and a passionate humanitarian, but his indelible legacy will remain ever present. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and all who were inspired by the man and his music."

For his good friend, Fox reporter Roger Friedman's take, which claims the legendary soul man was beset by financial and medical problems, while being cared for by fellow Scientology "minders," click here.

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