Isaac Hayes dies at 65

Singer-songwriter known for 'Shaft' theme, 'South Park'

Oscar-winning soul singer Isaac Hayes who, along with Al Green, James Brown and Stevie Wonder, was one of the dominant black artists in the early 1970s, died in Memphis on Sunday, his friend and former manager, Onzie Horne, said. Hayes was 65.

Horne told Reuters that he had spoken to Hayes' wife, who confirmed that Hayes was found unconscious near a running treadmill at his home and rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Hayes, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, would have turned 66 on August 20.

The deep-voiced performer reached his commercial peak in 1972 when he won an Academy Award for his No. 1 hit "Theme from 'Shaft,' " an irresistibly urgent mix of wah-wah guitars and hi-hat cymbals spiced by the famous line, "They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother-/Shut your mouth!"

Long before he became a soul singer, Hayes was a hitmaker at Memphis soul label Stax Records. He collaborated with lyricist David Porter to write and produce songs for the combustible soul duo Sam and Dave, including "Soul Man" and "Hold On! I'm a Comin'."

Hayes, born Aug. 20, 1942, in Covington, Tenn., was raised by his grandparents after being orphaned. He joined Stax in 1963, and often subbed for the label's primary keyboardist, Booker T. Jones.

With his shaved head, dark shades, extravagant clothing and plentiful jewelry, Hayes was groomed as a star in his own right by Stax executives. He released his debut album, the poor-selling "Presenting Isaac Hayes," in 1968. He broke through the following year with "Hot Buttered Soul," which contained just four songs but sold more than a million copies.

His work on director Gordon Parks' urban crime drama "Shaft," a project he had hoped to star in, was the first of many forays into movie soundtracks. He got in front of the camera for the 1974 cult classic "Truck Turner" and had kept busy with film work ever since, recently appearing in the hip-hop drama "Hustle & Flow."

In his later years, Hayes reached a new audience by supplying the voice for Chef, the libidinous sage on the cartoon series "South Park." But he left the show a few years ago because he disagreed with its attacks on Scientology, the religious movement to which he belonged.

Hayes, born August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, was raised by his grandparents after being orphaned. He joined Stax in 1963, and often subbed for the label's primary keyboardist, Booker T. Jones.
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