Singer, composer, Oscar and Grammy Award winner, creative mastermind Isaac Hayes, 65, was found collapsed by his wife, son and cousin in his Memphis home next to a running treadmill on Sunday, August 10. He was pronounced dead shortly after 2:00 P.M., following unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate him, the Associated Press reports.
The velvet-voiced crooner, a native of Covington, Tennessee, began his career in the sixties as a principal songwriter and musician for the legendary Memphis-based label Stax Records. When he was in his early twenties, he played piano for such legends as Otis Redding. Loved by Black America and the music world for his smooth R&B sound, Hayes’s cross-generational appeal influenced countless major artists, including hip-hop luminaries who sampled many of his compositions. One of his most popular anthems, the 1971 classic “Theme From Shaft” written for Gordon Parks’s Blaxploitation blockbuster Shaft, garnered him Oscar and Grammy gold. The empowering sounds of Isaac Hayes not only impressed the Academy, but his peers as well.
“In African history, the griot is a storyteller. He is the village keeper of history,” shares Hayes friend and fellow legend Stevie Wonder. “Every time a griot dies, it is like a library burning to the ground. Isaac Hayes was a griot of song. He captured the excitement, imagination and the realities of life, love and hope. It is sorrowful that we have lost another griot of song. But it is a blessing that we were able to capture some of his gold forever.”
Hayes’s Oscar win thrust him into the mainstream and served as the catalyst for his movie career as an actor. His growing résumé included feature roles in the 1988 cult classic “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and 2005’s Oscar-winning “Hustle & Flow.” In 1997 he earned a new generation of fans as the voice of Chef on Comedy Central’s controversial animated series “South Park.” Hayes’s rich tones permeated New York and Memphis airwaves as a well-liked radio host, and he provided voiceovers for cable network Nick at Night. Clean shaven and solidly built, Hayes took his final acting bow in “Soul Men,” which recently wrapped—the sad irony being that Soul Men costars comedian and actor Bernie Mac, who died Saturday, August 9.
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