Isaac Hayes (1942-2008)
The soul musician and Georgia Music Hall of Fame inductee Isaac Hayes broke new ground in the 1960s
Hayes was born on August 20, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, to sharecropper parents who died while he was still an infant. He and his younger sister, Willette, were reared by their maternal grandparents, Rushia Addie-Mae and Willie Wade, in Memphis, Tennessee, where Hayes started singing in the church choir at the age of five. By the time Hayes was a teenager he had taught himself piano, organ, and saxophone, and had begun playing in a number of local rhythm-and-blues bands, including Sir Calvin and His Swinging Cats and Sir Isaac and the Doo-dads.
Hayes was married four times and had twelve children; at the time of his death in 2008, he was married to Adowja Hayes.
Hayes released his first solo record, Presenting Isaac Hayes, in 1967, but it was his second album, Hot Buttered Soul (1969), that went multiplatinum and proved to be his breakthrough. The album, with its unusual format of four lengthy songs ("By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is eighteen minutes long), features sultry monologues and a cutting-edge sound that spawned the term and genre "Memphis soul." In 1970 Hayes released two more albums in quick succession.
The Black Moses
In the 1970s the man known as the "Black Moses" (a nickname given to him by the Harlem minister Dino Woodard and immortalized by Hayes's 1971 album of the same name) moved to Atlanta and added actor to his resume, when he starred in several "blaxploitation" movies, including the lead role in Truck Turner (1974). Hayes also appeared in other feature films, including the blaxploitation parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka! (1988), and on television.
During the 1990s Hayes hosted a radio show in New York City, and in 1997 he gained a new audience when he became the voice of Chef for the animated television satire South Park. Hayes left the series in 2006, citing what he described as the show's participation in the media's "growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs." His widely publicized departure followed the airing of an episode lampooning the Scientology movement, of which Hayes was an adherent.
Hayes left Atlanta in 1992 and returned to Memphis. There he performed in 2003 at the "Soul Comes Home Concert" to commemorate
As of 2008 Hayes's son Isaac Hayes III, a hip-hop producer working under the name Ike Dirty, lived in Smyrna. He and his father coproduced an online radio program, Dirty 'N the Bess, which was recorded in the Atlanta area.
Hayes was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1994, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. He died at his home in Memphis on August 10, 2008. The film Soul Man, starring Hayes as himself, was released in November of that year.
Hayes's deep, ultra-smooth voice changed the nature of rhythm and blues in the South, guiding such artists as Barry White, Marvin Gaye, and Curtis Mayfield into a new soul genre, while his spoken-word monologues paved the way for today's rap music.
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3d ed., comp. and ed. Colin Larkin (London: Muze, 1998), s.v. "Hayes, Isaac."
International Dictionary of Black Composers, ed. Samuel A. Floyd Jr. (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999), s.v. " Hayes, Isaac."
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 2001), s.v. " Hayes, Isaac."
Erin R. McLeod, Athens
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.