R.I.P. Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes, Singer-Songwriter Who Defined ’70s Soul, Is Dead at 65
Isaac Hayes, the singer and songwriter whose luxurious, strutting funk arrangements in songs like “Theme From ‘Shaft’ ” defined the glories and excesses of soul music in the early 1970s, died on Sunday in East Memphis, Tenn.
He was 65.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said that Mr. Hayes’s wife, Adjowa, found him collapsed near a treadmill at his home in Cordova, an eastern suburb of Memphis, and he was pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death was not known.
With his lascivious bass-baritone and dandy wardrobe, Mr. Hayes developed a musical persona that was analogous to the hyper-masculine, street-savvy characters of the so-called blaxploitation films of the era. In his theme song to Gordon Parks’s “Shaft” from 1971, the title character is summed up in a line that has become a classic of kitsch:
“Who’s a black private dick/Who’s a sex machine to yall the chicks?”
(Furthermore: “He’s a complicated man/But no one understands him but his woman.”)
The “Shaft” theme won an Academy Award and has become one of his best-known songs. But Mr. Hayes’s career stretched far beyond soundtracks. For much of the 1960s and into the ’70s he was one of the principal songwriters and performers for Stax Records, the trailblazing Memphis R&B label, and in the 1990s he revived his career by providing the voice for the amorous and wise Chef on the cable television show “South Park.”
Goodnight sweet Chef...