Soul icon Isaac Hayes dies in Memphis at 65

Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:39pm EDT
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - 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. He was 65.

His friend and former manager, Onzie Horne, told Reuters he spoke to Hayes' wife, Adjowa, who confirmed that Hayes had died.

Hayes, who once told Reuters that he was a "health fanatic," was reportedly found unconscious near a running treadmill at his home. He was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was not known. In early 2007, Hayes suffered a stroke.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee enjoyed two distinct musical careers, first as a session musician, songwriter and producer at the Memphis soul label Stax Records, where he worked primarily with Sam and Dave; then as a solo artist whose lushly orchestrated albums were some of the first concept works by a black artist.

"He was a real powerhouse in music," Don Cornelius, the founder of the "Soul Train" TV series, told Reuters. "He took black music to another level, made it more classic."

The deep-voiced performer was the first black composer to win the Oscar for best song, with 1971's "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!"


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.   Continued...

<p>U.S. musician, actor and singer Isaac Hayes performs in the Wattstax Revue at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, in this July 2, 2005 file photo. Oscar-winning soul singer Hayes died in Memphis on Sunday, aged 65, his friend and former manager Onzie Horne said. REUTERS/ARC-Jean-Bernard Sieber/Files</p>