I am just really undone. First, Bernie Mac and now Issac Hayes.
Legendary soul music performer Isaac Hayes died this afternoon after he was found unconscious in his Shelby County home. He was 65.
A family member found the entertainer next to a running treadmill at about 1 p.m. Sunday, said Steve Shular, spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Hayes, born Aug. 20, 1942, was rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m.
Hayes’ wife, their 2-year-old son and another family member had gone to the grocery store around noon, Shular said. When they returned, they found Hayes unresponsive.
Rescue workers responded to a 911 call, and they performed CPR at Hayes’ home at 9280 Riveredge in the eastern part of Shelby County, near Forest Hill Irene and Walnut Grove.
The Sheriff’s Office is conducting a routine investigation, said Shular, but “nothing leads us to believe this is foul play.”
Family members told authorities Hayes had been under the care of a physician for “medical conditions,” but no other information was available on what those conditions were.
A musical prodigy from childhood – Hayes began singing in church at age 5, and by his teen years had mastered several instruments. Hayes hustled on the local club scene in the early ’60s, leading a series of combos before gravitating to the fledgling Stax Records label in South Memphis as a session player.
There, along with his writing partner David Porter, Hayes would go on to compose some of the seminal songs in the soul music canon, penning hits for Carla Thomas (“B-A-B-Y”), Johnnie Taylor (“I Had A Dream”) and most notably, the duo Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”; “Hold On I’m Comin”).
An outsized character even among the colorful crew at Stax, Hayes was noted for his then novel shaved head and outlandish dress sense, elements that would become cornerstones of his distinctive persona later on.
As his songwriting and production achievements continued to grow, Hayes made a rather inauspicious debut as a solo artist for Stax, with 1967’s jazz-flavored Presenting Isaac Hayes. But it was his follow-up LP in 1969, Hot Buttered Soul, that would take him from behind-the-scenes player to front-and-center star. An adventurous and experimental LP, Hot Buttered Soul shattered traditional R&B conventions. Comprised of four lengthy songs — moody, languid and epic reinterpretations of pop hits like “Walk On By” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” — the tracks were transformed by Hayes’ complex arrangements and the sheer power of his rumbling baritone. Surprisingly, the album became both a critical and commercial success and catapulted Hayes into a fulltime performing career.
While Hot Buttered Soul would represent his commercial breakthrough — a streak he would keep alive with two more chart-topping efforts, 1970’s …To Be Continued and The Isaac Hayes Movement — it was his work on the soundtrack to Gordon Parks’ pioneering 1971 “blaxploitation” film “Shaft” that would forever cement Hayes’ place in history. The film’s title track – an irresistible mingling of wah-wah guitar, orchestral flourishes and Hayes’ proto-rapping – became a pop sensation topping the Billboard charts. The tune would go on to earn Hayes an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.”
By the early ‘70s Hayes had become both cottage industry and the lynchpin of Stax’s shift toward a kind of new black consciousness. He would continue to evolve his music with albums like the Grammy-winning “Black Moses” and another soundtrack for the film “Truck Turner” (in which he also starred in the title role) and was the headliner for the massive 1972 Wattstax concert in Los Angeles.
Despite his numerous successes, the rapid demise of Stax and personal management woes forced Hayes to declare bankruptcy in 1976. Hayes took an extended five-year break from music in the early-’80s — his career as an actor blossomed. He appeared on a number of television shows (“The Rockford Files,” “Miami Vice”) and films (“Escape From New York,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka”) and became familiar to a whole new generation with his role as Chef in the popular animated series “South Park.”
As an artist and stylistic innovator Hayes exerted a major influence throughout the decades, his work anticipating and contributing heavily to the evolution of disco, rap, house music and modern R&B. That legacy was honored when Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.