A noted singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Isaac Hayes was one of the most important soul music icons of the second half of the 20th century.
As a key contributor to the South's answer to Motown, Stax Records, Hayes served for nearly a decade as an in-house songwriter/producer with partner David Porter, penning such monster hits as Sam and Dave's "Soul Man," before breaking out as a top recording artist in his own right. His 1969 opus Hot Buttered Soul is simply one of the greatest soul music albums of all time, and his 1971 album Black Moses solidified his position among the soul music royalty.
Despite his great R&B success on those two albums, Hayes became best known for the killer title track of his 1971 soundtrack to the movie Shaft. It won for him a #1 song, an Academy Award, and some of the most repeated lyrics in soul music history.
While Hayes never again achieved that amazing height again, he continued to perform and record successfully for the better part of the next three decades, landing an occasional hit (such as the disco anthem "Don't Let Go") and continuing to draw crowds whenever he performed onstage.
To a younger generation, Hayes was best known as the Chef from the animated television show South Park, before a messy divorce from the show in 2006. Hayes continued to perform regularly and, in 2008, resigned with the rejuvenated Stax label for a new album. Sadly, Hayes died suddenly on August 10, 2008, leaving a huge musical legacy. His unique style and is deep catalog continue to resonate years after his death.
By Chris Rizik