Isaac Hayes 1942-2008.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AFP) – American funk-soul legend and Academy Award-award winning musician Isaac Hayes was found dead Sunday at his home in Memphis, Tennessee, officials said. He was 65.
The talented singer, songwriter and composer, who won the Oscar in 1972 for best original song for the theme from “Shaft,” was found unresponsive at his house by family members, Shelby county sheriff’s spokesman Steve Shular told AFP.
Hayes was discovered at about 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) collapsed on the floor of a bedroom in his home next to a treadmill that was still running, he said.
“We don’t believe there was any foul play,” Shular said. “Based on the statements by family members that Mr. Hayes had been treated of late for a number of medical issues, we believe that led to his death today. There are no plans for an autopsy.”
Hayes suffered a stroke in early 2006.
Born August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee, Hayes’ humble beginnings with his sharecropper family were never far from his mind. At the height of fame, he bought an estate in East Memphis overlooking the same cotton fields where he grew up.
He began singing in church at age five and in high school caught the attention of a guidance counselor who persuaded him to enter a talent show.
“When I finished, the house was on its feet, man, and I was a hit … So I started pursuing music big time,” Hayes said on his official website.
He was renowned for his characteristic baritone voice and mastery of several instruments, including the saxophone and the piano.
After graduating high school in 1962 and winning seven college scholarships for vocal music, Hayes turned down higher education to launch his music with Stax Record, where he worked with some of Rhythm and Blues biggest names at the time, including Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T & the MG’s.
Hayes became Stax Record’s rising star starting in 1966, and over the next few years some 200 Hayes-David Porter compositions became standards.
His career took off in 1969 with the landmark “Hot Buttered Soul” album, which stayed on the pop chart for 81 weeks and forced the music industry, for the first time, to conceive of soul music as an album art form.
At the time of emerging Black Power and with the death of Martin Luther King as a conscience building experience, Hayes transformed his image into a revolutionary statement, dressing in black leather, draping his bare chest in rows of gold chains and shaving his head completely.
After his career-defining soundtrack for the 1971 movie “Shaft,” for which Hayes picked up an Oscar, three Grammy awards, a Golden Globe award, and an Edison award, Europe’s highest music honor, Hayes began acting in scores of movies and television series.
His guest star appearances included TV shows “The Rockford Files” and “Miami Vice.” He also appeared in feature films such as “Escape from New York” and “Hustle & Flow.”
Musically, he returned to the pop charts in 1986 with a new record deal with Columbia and a new album, “U-Turn.”
In 1997 he began voicing the role of Chef in the animated Comedy Central cable ‘ series “South Park,” but quit in 2006, apparently because of a conflict with Scientology, a religion he followed since the mid 1990s.
During a 1991 trip with Barry White to Africa, Hayes became fascinated with his African roots, and began his philanthropic devotion to spreading the message that education is the key to freedom.
He started the Isaac Hayes Foundation in 1993 and after being crowned king of a small community in Ghana, he returned in 2000 to open an education center that provides literacy, computer technology and health courses.
In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and moved back home to Memphis, Tennessee, where he pursed business interests that flowered into two restaurants and a best-selling cookbook.
He wrote a self-help book, “The Way to Happiness,” and summarized his life experience in an interview: “At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own lives.
“If anything happens to us, don’t blame somebody else. Backtrack and look at what you did to contribute to that. You also contribute to your successes. Once you learn that, you’re on your way.”
Hayes was married four times and fathered 12 children, according to Us magazine. He is survived by his wife Adjowa, the couple married in 2005 and with whom he had one child.