Shortly after graduating from Manassas High School in North Memphis, Isaac Hayes demonstrated his musical talent by performing with a few doo-wop groups and playing in area clubs with Mar-Key horn player Floyd Newman. It was during that time that Hayes found his way to Stax Records, where he teamed with songwriting partner David Porter. The two joined with the members of Booker T. & the MGs as the Stax “Big 6,” a production partnership, where they remained a major influence on most Stax recordings released during the 1960s and co-wrote and produced some 200 songs and creating acts such as the Soul Children.
In the late 1960s, Hayes evolved from working behind the scenes at Stax into a global icon, driven by his solo album Hot Buttered Soul (1969), the soundtrack of Shaft (1971), and his follow-up album, Black Moses (1972). All were sensational successes, and Hayes became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for music. He remained on the Stax roster until the label’s financial collapse in 1975.
Hayes then formed his own record company, HBS, on which he recorded four albums that all reached the top 20 on the charts, including three disco-influenced LPs and a live double LP with good friend Dionne Warwick. In the early 1980s he began to concentrate on his film and television career, appearing in more than 60 movies and television shows, including his famed 10-year role as “Chef” on South Park. He authored two cookbooks and hosted “The Isaac Hayes Top 20 R&B Countdown” show and the nationally syndicated, five-hour “Hot Buttered Love Songs” radio program. An honorary King of Ghana, Hayes built an 8,000-square-foot-school there, NekoTech, which opened in 1998 and focuses on literacy, education, computer technology, and other modern ways to help underprivileged young people in the region. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2002 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
Most recently, Hayes toured nationally and internationally, and established the Isaac Hayes Foundation, which that promotes literacy, good health, and AIDS awareness. He passed away on August 10, 2008, from an apparent stroke at his Tennessee home.
Bio courtesy of Stax Museum of American Soul Music
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